The push to legalize marijuana in New Jersey received a boost from a very unlikely group – the very prosecutors who put people behind bars for marijuana-related crimes. The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association has recently announced its support of legalization, coming just after two bills were introduced in the New Jersey State Legislature that, if passed into law, would legalize it. The first, introduced March 10, calls for a referendum. The second, introduced March 24, would legalize the cultivation, sale, and possession of marijuana; set up an agency to regulate the industry; and generate tax revenue that would be funneled to various other programs. The latter bill, however, will most likely not be signed into law, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has made it clear that he is opposed to legalization.
The Municipal Prosecutors Association has put forward several reasons for legalizing marijuana, including:
- A conviction for a marijuana-related offense often ruins peoples’ careers.
- Prosecutors’ requests of laboratories to analyze samples of marijuana are overwhelming the labs and are sometimes leading to dismissals of cases when defendants invoke their rights to speedy trials.
- Very few of the DUI cases in New Jersey are for drivers who are high on marijuana.
- According to statistics, African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than whites, yet are not more likely to use marijuana in the first place.
- New Jersey is losing money by not taxing marijuana.
Jon-Henry Barr, president of the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association, says that the criminalization of marijuana “makes about as much sense as prohibition of alcohol did,” and that “it is time to stop the insanity.” Opponents, including some members of the Municipal Prosecutors Association, maintain that legalization of marijuana would pose a grave danger to people on the roadways, and that the cost to test people to see if they are under the influence of marijuana is prohibitively high.
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