Essex, Decriminalization

State Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex) a notorious prohibitionist got in a fight with Judiciary Chair Nick Scutari (D-Union), the sponsor for legalization.

According to Insider NJ, they almost had a physical confrontation.

Rice, who always believed in decriminalization, is angry Scutari is not moving decriminalization through his committee.

Scutari believes that if decriminalization passes, it will take the momentum away from legalization since a minor fine won’t stop people from buying and consuming cannabis. He’s not the only one.

Many believe Scutari’s bill S. 2703 was insufficiently criminal justice-minded. NJ Weedman is against legalization because there is no provision to allow him into the legal market under Scutari’s bill.

People who enjoy unreliable cannabis sold in a shady fashion and indifferent to criminal justice reform and the economic opportunities of legalization will, in theory, be less likely to vote for legalization.

Advocates argue only full legalization will address criminal justice concerns, help fill the state’s budget gap, create new jobs and wealth, and allow for regulated cannabis that’s wholly safe for those 21 and older to consume.

“People are getting shot left and right out there [for marijuana possession]. You can’t keep being white and saying black lives matter and deny decriminalization,”

Rice said when asked about the incident.

Many accuse Rice of being a lackey for the cannabis prohibitionist special interest group NJ RAMP. He has been adamantly against legalization, but for decriminalization.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calculated that 94 people a day were getting arrested for cannabis. But since the number rose every year over the years they tracked, it’s likely more than 94 now.

Essex Decriminalization

The Essex Freeholder Board recently passed a resolution supporting the state decriminalization of cannabis.

They specifically endorsed S. 2535, introduced by Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), which was widely praised by advocates for its comprehensive criminal justice approach. Rice was co-sponsoring that.

Freeholder-at-Large Rufus Johnson introduced the resolution.

“People who have been convicted of marijuana offenses should have the opportunity to move forward with their lives,” Johnson said. “This bill will raise awareness around expungement relief, and law-abiding citizens will not feel as though they are ‘held hostage’ by an offense that is no longer considered a criminal action.”

Freeholder Board President Brendan Gill also supported the bill. He is seeking to profit on legalization. Since he was Phil Murphy’s Campaign Manager, he’s well-positioned to do so.

County freeholders periodically pass bills urging the passage of bills in the state legislature since they do not have the authority to pass it on the county level.

Even if legalization passes on Tuesday, November 3rd, arrests are not likely to stop a minute before legalization is implemented.

Ron Rice has introduced a decriminalization bill that calls for mandatory rehab for those caught with cannabis. However, for those medicating as patients (or self-medicating as the vast majority of New Jerseyans do), they’ll have to argue with a series of bureaucrats that they are, in fact, not addicts.

Rehab centers will lose the most over decriminalization or legalization, and Rice protected them.

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