Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jul 2018
Source: Bridgeton News (NJ)
Copyright: 2018 Bridgeton News


Jersey City's mayor is planting himself at the forefront of a national
movement to stop destroying people's lives for having a little marijuana.

Steven Fulop is firmly on the right side of this issue, and Gov. Phil
Murphy's attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, is not fighting him on it --
once again demonstrating that he is not just concerned with law and
order, but justice.

Grewal has been receptive to reform efforts in general, creating a
statewide team to investigate wrongful convictions, for instance,
after a bungled murder case in Passaic County.

N.J. won't prosecute many weed cases until September. It's a big step
toward legalization.

In this case, he says his office wasn't consulted before Jersey City
announced it would seek to decriminalize marijuana, and treat simple
possession like a traffic ticket, rather than grounds for arrest.

But while Fulop may have gone a bit rogue, his instinct was right, and
he has effectively triggered a statewide policy shift by the attorney

Grewal took a step in Jersey City's direction on Tuesday, easing up on
marijuana enforcement in what could be the first move toward
decriminalization for New Jersey. He directed every municipal
prosecutor to adjourn all marijuana cases until September, when he'll
issue new guidance.

By then, we hope the Legislature will have legalized marijuana, or
that Grewal directs prosecutors to drop these cases for good. His
spokeswoman said he wants to build consensus before taking action. "We
want to do the right thing, the right way," Sharon Lauchaire said.

In the meantime, Grewal is ensuring that more people won't be sent to
jail while officials sort this out. The mayor and attorney general
wrangled over whether Jersey City had the authority to stop these
prosecutions on its own, or if this conflicted with state law.

The Hudson County prosecutor, Esther Suarez, reportedly threatened to
take over marijuana cases from Jersey City's new municipal prosecutor,
Jake Hudnut, if he refused to pursue them, for reasons that are hard
to fathom.

Her spokesman said she could not be reached for an explanation on
Tuesday. That would have been a big waste of resources and grave
injustice, given that our state is on the brink of legalizing marijuana.

What we should be doing is leaning on any local officials or judges
who are still hell-bent on wrecking people's lives for a joint. Why,
when lawmakers say they are just months away from legalizing weed,
should you lose your ability to legally drive, your student financial
aid, your job or immigration status, or be banned from public housing,
because of it?

Of the 36,000 people arrested in New Jersey for marijuana in 2016,
more than 32,000 were charged for having just a small amount, NJ
Cannabis Insider reported. Given that this affects tens of thousands
of lives, a statewide policy change is best. If Jersey City did this
alone, you could be five feet on the wrong side of its municipal line
and end up with a criminal record.

Full legalization is the ultimate answer, because it takes the profits
away from criminals and uses them for the public good. But in the
meantime, we're thankful that Grewal is stopping these prosecutions,
as he convenes an advisory group to study this issue.

Let's hope it recommends these cases be dropped permanently, and
Jersey City continues to lead the way.
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