Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jul 2018
Source: Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
Copyright: 2018 The Morning Call Inc.
Author: Bruce Shipkowski


New Jersey's attorney general has announced an immediate adjournment
of all marijuana cases in municipal courts statewide until at least

The decision was included in a letter state Attorney General Gurbir
Grewal sent Tuesday to municipal prosecutors in the state. It asked
them to seek an adjournment until September 4 -- or later -- of any
matter "involving a marijuana-related offense pending in municipal
court," a move that will allow the attorney general's office time to
develop "appropriate guidance" for prosecutors.

Grewal said he plans to convene a working group of criminal justice
stakeholders to study the issue and advise him on possible solutions.
He intends to issue a statewide directive by the end of next month
concerning the scope and "appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion"
in marijuana-related offenses in municipal court.

Grewal's letter did not say if arrests for marijuana possession would
also be put on hold, and authorities declined comment on that issue

The letter was first reported by New Jersey Advance Media.

It came just days after Jake Hudnut, the newly installed municipal
prosecutor in Jersey City, announced that his office would seek to
downgrade some marijuana charges to noncriminal offenses, seek the
outright dismissal of low-level marijuana charges and divert those
defendants with prior drug arrests and signs of addiction to the
city's community court.

The attorney general's office quickly notified Hudnut that he lacked
the legal authority to decriminalize marijuana or otherwise refuse to
criminally prosecute marijuana-related offenses, noting that only the
state Legislature could take such action.

Advocates of marijuana legalization in the state say they're trying to
overcome decades of stigma, as well as a federal prohibition, in an
effort to make New Jersey the latest state to legalize cannabis. But
they say they remain optimistic that bills will pass the Democrat-led
Legislature this year. Opponents point to the legalization effort's
slow going as a sign the effort could stall out.

Gov. Phil Murphy last month endorsed federal legislation that would
stop the federal government from enforcing anti-marijuana laws in
states that have legalized the drug, and has been pushing for
legalization to occur within New Jersey by year's end. Nine states and
the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.
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