JERSEY CITY, NJ — Jersey City is now the first city in New Jersey to create
a marijuana decriminalization policy.
Mayor Steven Fulop and the new chief prosecutor Jake Hudnut announced that they directed all city prosecutors to cease prosecuting marijuana possession cases before the municipal courts.
Instead of being sentenced for up to six months in jail for marijuana possession, the chief prosecutor is recommending a fine of no more than $50, or five hours of community service, if marijuana charges are not dismissed.
Some marijuana charges will now be noncriminal offenses.
Those with low-level marijuana charges could be dismissed. But, defendants with a criminal past and signs of addiction would be diverted to the city’s criminal court.
Jersey City Councilman Rolando Lavarro says he knows the Filipino community has some concerns with this new policy.
“I think it is similar to what is being said throughout the larger community. There’s concern with the idea just like with legalization, where would people be able to smoke and what kind of exposure, if you’re not a recreational user, and you don’t want your family and children exposed to it.”
New Jersey has a medical marijuana program, but recreational marijuana use is still illegal.
Governor Phil Murphy wants a legal marijuana law by the end of this year, but he does not have widespread support from lawmakers in his own party.
Meanwhile, Lavarro says Jersey City is doing something to increase racial justice.
“I mean it’s indisputable, if there’s disparity in regards to black and brown people being arrested for marijuana use and the negative impact it has… and so I think across the board most people feel that it’s an injustice and unfair and there’s way to remedy that and this is one such measure.”
According to city officials, there are about 25,000 annual arrests for marijuana possession in New Jersey alone, and prosecuting those cases cost nearly one billion dollars.