TRENTON – Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari today announced that he will hold a hearing of the committee next week on the issue of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey. The committee will hear from invited guests, including health professionals, law enforcement, clergy, civil rights organizations and policy experts.
“There is no question that we need to update our archaic drug laws in this country and the majority of people support regulating, taxing and legalizing marijuana,” said Senator Scutari. “This is a fact-finding hearing that we hope will help to continue to inform the committee and the Legislature as we take up this very important issue. This is a first step in the process of finally reversing our punitive marijuana laws that have caused harm to our residents and our communities.”
Approximately 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana law violations in 2012, according to FBI statistics cited by Drug Policy Alliance, comprising about half of all drug arrests in the United States – and equaling one every 42 seconds. In 2010, New Jersey spent $127.3 million on enforcement, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also found African-Americans are 2.8 times more likely in New Jersey to be arrested for marijuana possession than a Caucasian person, even though the rate of marijuana use is similar.
“The drug laws in this country prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana have failed,” said Senator Scutari. “We have to take a more reasonable approach to the regulation of marijuana. Legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana will bring it out of the underground market, making the product and our communities safer. It will allow law enforcement to re-dedicate their resources to where they are most needed. In addition, it will create revenue for the state to help fund critical programs and services for our residents. This is an opportunity to hear from stakeholders and the public about the best way to do that.”
Senator Scutari is the sponsor of legislation (S-1896) to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New Jersey for those who are 21 years of age and older; he was also the prime sponsor of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. To date, four states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. voted to legalize marijuana for adults in the 2014 election. They joined Colorado and Washington, which legalized marijuana in 2012, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet next Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, at 1:00 PM in Committee Room 4, 1st Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, New Jersey.