cannabis legislation

The new cannabis legislation compromise bill passed the Assembly Community Development and Affairs committee.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly’s (D-Passaic) bill A. 5342 would impose a $50 to 100 dollar fine on those 18-20. The local superior court will have jurisdiction over such cases if they fail to pay.

Cannabis Legislation Details

Those under 18 at the point of violation would receive a warning. Wimberly said the police officer will counsel against cannabis use. There would be no threat of attending rehab. The bill also requires the NJ Attorney General to issue biannual reports on the statistics regarding those under 21 arrested for possession. The specific language of the bill still is not yet available on the legislature’s website.

“I want to thank the sponsor of the bill,” Committee Chair Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic) said, referring to Wimberly.

Wimberly said regarding the bill that it creates a “fair process no matter where u living for all our young people.”

He noted it spells out a process that “protects against harm and criminal charges that can impede their future.” Wimberly also praised Sumter, who has been a consistent supporter of cannabis legislation.

“Many issues were missed… we’re cleaning up and making it better,” he added. Wimberly noted it would not create a permanent record that could deter individuals from going to college, obtaining housing, law enforcement jobs, or otherwise create a barrier.

He said they are representing what the voters of New Jersey wanted, but still “protecting our youth.”

“The ACLU has worked with the legislature for many years to end cannabis prohibition,” said Ami Kachalia of the ACLU NJ. She praised Wimberly’s efforts and lamented the approximately 32,000 arrests a year related to cannabis in New Jersey.

Cannabis arrests are still occurring in New Jersey,” Kachalia said. She said there were 4,000 cannabis-related arrests in November and December after the referendum passed. Kachalia noted the terrible arrest rates coming out of Newark.

“Fifty years of the War on Drugs has determined penalties doesn’t deter drug use,” she added. Kachalia said the legal response to cannabis possession must be evidence-based and include restorative justice.

“It’s stronger than the clean-up bill,” she added since there are fewer fines, more robust reporting requirements, and a commitment to monitor the consequences for youth.

“We look forward to continuing to partner with you as well,” Sumter said.

Assemblyman William Spearman (D-Camden) thanked Wimberly and Sumter for their leadership on the new cannabis legislation.

“It looked kinda dicey there for a minute,” he added, noting the problems with the passage of cannabis legislation.

“We’re committed to continuing to work on companion and partnership bills,” Sumter said. “Because we don’t know all the actions this will have.”

NJ Business Industry Association (NJBIA) lobbyist Raymond Cantor complained again that legalization could harm companies and argued for prohibition provisions at workers’ expense. He has complained consistently about the high-risk occupations like those working at a nuclear plant.

“I really appreciate what the Chairwoman said about working with the business community,” Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) said. He then complained about the workers’ right to enjoy cannabis before voting no.

Wimberly said they’ve worked with the business community.

“Let’s keep in mind the disparity of the arrests and who’s been arrested,” he said, referring to Hispanics and African Americans’ disproportionate suffering under the cannabis prohibition.

Now that a bill has passed, hopefully a companion bill will pass a Senate committee and both chambers without further delays.

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