cannabis law

The New Jersey Senate compromise cannabis law, S. 3454, sponsored by Senators Nick Scutari (D-Union) and Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden), is ready for the hearing scheduled on Monday, President’s Day.

“An Act addressing possession or consumption of various forms of cannabis by certain persons, and amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law” is overall a well thought out cannabis law that mildly justifies the massive delay. It looks like the bill is still on track for final passage next Thursday, February 18th, and signature soon after.

The new proposed cannabis law would impose a $50 fine on those caught with it who are 18 to 20, which is less than the amount in the first clean up-bill. The bill that passed an Assembly Committee bill three weeks ago on January 29th would impose a $50-100 dollar range. It was sponsored by Assemblyman Benji Wimberly (D-Passaic).

Those under 18 receive a written warning for the first warning. A second warning includes letting the individual’s parent or guardian know of the first warning and being referred to programs that can help like social services, counseling, tutoring, and mentoring, For a third waring, in addition to letting a parent know and referrals to programs, there would be a penalty of $50 or community service with each hour earning the state minimum wage of $12, so it would take about four hours currently. The money would go to the Alcohol Education, Rehabilitation and Enforcement Fund. It would “fund community services, including resources that serve persons with alcohol use disorder and persons with a substance use disorder as well as educational programs, through annual county-level comprehensive plans that may incorporate government programs and services, and private organizations, including volunteer groups.”

The warning records will be maintained to enforce penalties and community service, and nothing else. There would be no forced drug rehab, which is a victory for advocates.

Those who are caught selling cannabis to kids would be fined $250 for their first offense, $500 for the second offense, and $1000 for the third and subsequent offenses. The proposed cannabis law notes these penalties are similar to those given to those caught selling cigarettes to minors.

Those who purchase cannabis for underage individuals are subject to a $500 fine, 30 days in jail, or both.

Compromise Cannabis Law Details

It’s notable that the proposed cannabis law says, “a person under the legal age to purchase cannabis items is not capable of giving lawful consent to a search to determine a violation of this section, and a law enforcement officer shall not request that a person consent to a search for that purpose.” It is also noteworthy that the smell of cannabis won’t give probable cause to search them. In addition, the sight of cannabis does not give probable cause to determine if they have committed other crimes.

Individuals caught will not be subject to arrest nor taken into custody. Thus, those caught will not be photographed, fingerprinted. However, the police will take their cannabis and paraphernalia.

A record only maintained and used if the person or their representative requests it, they are involved in a lawsuit or criminal prosecution arising from the violation or other charges.

An underage person is immune from prosecution if they called 911 to help somebody else underage. The receiver of medical assistance is also immune from prosecution.

The Attorney General will issue a report of the statistics every six months after the first one on June 30th, 2021, and the second on June 31st, 2022. The Attorney General can use records to create reports on statistics of such interactions that do not name the individuals caught. The individuals’ records will be deleted after two years.

Fifteen percent of the revenue from the sale of medical and adult-use cannabis will now go to the “Underage Deterrence and Prevention Account.” That money will be used by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) to fund non-profits and programs that offer social services, education, recreation, employment, and local economic development to improve and support youth activities to “divert and prevent” those under 18 from smoking. That money would go to municipal health agencies.

The cannabis law does not say if that 15 percent will result in less going towards funding police training programs or social equity programs.

Within 45 days of the cannabis law bill’s passage, the Attorney General is ordered to issue a report explaining these provisions and send it to every municipal police chief, the 21 County Prosecutors,  and the NJ State Police Superintendent. All police officers would be mandated to attend training to avoid their own potential racial bias. The training would be reinforced at roll calls, academy training, and continuing education programs, so all officers understand the law.

An officer with a body camera must record the interaction. Recordings of these interactions and warnings will not be accessible to law enforcement agencies nor the AG. Thus, they cannot be used to prove juvenile delinquency.

There would also be a 26-member task force to review footage, including:

  1. The AG or a representative
  2. A public defender
  3. Division Youth and Family Services (DYFYS) or a representative
  4. The Education Commissioner or a representative
  5. The Juvenile Justice Commissioner
  6. A representative from the Division of Criminal Justice in the Department of Law and Public safety
  7. The Chair of the Juvenile Justice delinquency, and prevention committee
  8. Two members appointed by the Senate President,
  9. one of whom must be from the Latino or Black Caucus
  10.  Two appointed by the Assembly Speaker,
  11. one of whom has to be from the Black or Latino Caucus
  12. A Judge of the superior court assigned to the Chancery Division of Families
  13. A representative from NJISJ
  14. A representative from ACLU NJ
  15. A representative or a County prosecutor NJ
  16.  A representative from the NJ Juvenile Officers Association
  17. The Anne E. Casey foundation representative
  18.  The Vera Institute of Justice representative
  19. A New Jersey NAACP representative
  20. Salvation and Social Justice
  21.  A representative of the County Youth Services Commission
  22. A representative from the “faith-based ethical community”
  23.  A representative of juvenile justice facility employees
  24.  Three representatives involved with the juvenile justice system,
  25. Including at least one non-profit that deals with the issue,
  26. and a person who has been subject to custody by the system.
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