New Jersey’s Marijuana Bill Moves Forward

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The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 7-0 today on a bill that would lead to the decriminalization of marijuana possession for 15 grams or less. The bill will be forwarded to the full chamber.

The committee’s five Democrats and two Republicans heard almost uniformly supportive testimony for about an hour before the vote. If passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, it would downgrade possession of up to 35 marijuana cigarettes and drug paraphernalia, making both civil offenses punishable by fines of $100 to $500. Offenders under age 18 and those with multiple infractions would be referred for drug counseling.

“The time has come to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, chairman of the committee and a Democratic sponsor of the legislation, said during the hearing. The bill has the backing of 15 Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors. Gov. Chris Christie’s office said he hadn’t taken a position on the bill.

The Senate version of the decriminalization bill, introduced Thursday, hasn’t had a hearing.

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