TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – It doesn’t look like recreational marijuana will be legal anytime soon in New Jersey.
So instead, legislators are working on bills that would decriminalize it.
Marijuana is not legal but the reality is it’s out there., and people are still getting in trouble for it.
Last week, Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced he would push a bill to expunge the records of people with marijuana offenses without legalizing recreational pot. Many questioned how this was possible if it’s still a crime.
“I don’t see a pathway forward for that at this time, it’s a disappointment. Social inequalities will continue, tomorrow and the next day,” said St. Sen. Nicholas Scutari.
Another solution? Decriminalize pot. Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick is in favor of that idea.
“We do not want our children or adults to have criminal records. Small amounts of marijuana should be a civil penalty, a fine,” Bramnick said. “We don’t want people to lose jobs, not be able to get jobs because of small amounts of marijuana.”
A new expungement bill, sponsored by Democrats, would reduce penalties for marijuana possession up to two ounces, making it a civil citation.
That means you will not be arrested, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported. You will just have to pay a proposed fine of $50.
The New Jersey ACLU supports the plan, saying it will stop social and racial injustices.
“We’ve been arresting New Jerseyans, 35,000 people a year,” said Sarah Farjado of the NJ ACLU. “These folks are overwhelmingly folks of color.”
Bramnick, a Republican, says this is something both parties are interested in.
Politics are always at play.
“I think it’s absolutely bipartisan,” Bramnick said. “The concern, as you know, that Gov. Murphy wanted recreational marijuana. Certain Democrats say if you do this, then Murphy isn’t getting recreational marijuana. That I think is where the push back is. Obviously, if you support recreational, then you support decriminalization.”
Murphy wouldn’t comment Monday. The bill is being worked through committees. Murphy has said his support of an expungement bill would depend on the details.
Under the proposed bill, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing marijuana is still a crime.