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NJ Gets Closer to Legalization and Decriminalization of Cannabis With 'Cleanup Bill' Committee Vote


January 8, 2021 ( Newswire) New Jersey Assembly and Senate committees advanced legislation addressing some technical issues and making changes to youth penalties, bringing New Jersey one step closer to legalizing cannabis.

The bill seeks to impose fines on cannabis possession and use for youth aged 18-21 and divert youth under 18 pre-booking.

Members of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR) made the following statements:

"Marijuana arrests must end immediately, and today's clean-up bill is part of that process. Though today's amended bill improves the penalty scheme for youth, we must make sure that no one, including young people, gets mired in the criminal-legal system as a result of cannabis. Inability to pay fines or fulfill the terms of diversionary programs can result in criminal penalties for cannabis, and the suspension of driving privileges allowed by the bill will cause hardship and limit access to opportunity. No one should fear that cannabis use will result in long-term collateral consequences," said Ami Kachalia, ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist.

"Since its inception, the drug war has been a ploy for systematizing racism in the criminal justice system. Black youth are arrested at five times the rate of white youth for marijuana infractions. As the liberalization of cannabis laws spreads, it is imperative to address both historical and ongoing policies that harm black and minority communities. It is not enough to lift bans and allow venture capitalists to flood the market, while those who have suffered most under the drug war remain marginalized and sidelined by the green rush. Punishment for underage usage should be education, and station house adjustment centered. Fines do nothing but put more financial hardship on parents who are already fighting against considerable odds to make ends meet," said Richard Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.

"NJ voters sent a crystal clear message to their elected representatives that they want to end marijuana arrests and establish a regulated market for cannabis to reap the economic benefits for the state. NJUMR has worked alongside fellow advocates and policy makers to develop legislation that not only stops these senseless arrests but begins to repair the harms created by the war on cannabis. This legislation also ensures that the economic benefits of marijuana legalization will be shared by those hardest hit by the war against marijuana. It's long past time to sign this legislation and end these arrests as the voters of this State overwhelmingly decided this past fall," said Bill Caruso, a partner at Archer Law.

"It's imperative that the Legislature passes a fair clean-up bill quickly so the Governor can sign it into law and New Jersey can move on with implementing legalization. No one should be unfairly punished for cannabis, and any punishments for minors should be reasonable and not lead to records. Most importantly, arrests need to stop now," said Evan Nison, Treasurer of NORML.


Allison Peltzman, ACLU-NJ Communications Director, 201-253-9403,

Ami Kachalia, ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist, 732-986-8645,

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