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Arrests for having up to 1 pound of weed would be banned in N.J. under new bill

Amanda Hoover | June 5, 2020 | NJ Advance Media |


New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would decrease punishments for marijuana possession from arrests to fines, reviving a years-long effort as the nation grapples with racial bias and brutality in policing.

The new bill, S2535, introduced to the state Senate Thursday afternoon, would decriminalize possession and distribution of less than one pound of weed, but would not make marijuana legal. Violators would receive a written warning for a first offense and a face fines of $25 for second and subsequent offenses.

“We have been over-penalizing marijuana offenses for far too long. We all know it is not nearly as dangerous as heroin or cocaine and it has no place being classified with them in statute,” Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, a bill sponsor, said in a statement.

“This legislation will right the ship, revising the damaging criminal codes put in place under the war on drugs, which were intentionally created to target the black community.”

Currently, possessing from one ounce to five pounds is an offense punishable by three to five years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. Under the new bill, anyone caught with more than one pound of weed would receive a disorderly persons offense, punishable by six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

The measure also bars police from stopping and searching people because they smell weed, and allows those on probation or parole to use marijuana without it impacting their release.


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