NJ’s Pot Decriminalization Bill Being Fine Tuned Says Sponsor
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora says he’ll seek amendments to his marijuana decriminalization bill to require a portion of the fines go to state drug education programs and allow judges to order an “addiction evaluation” for an offender who is arrested a third time. The main purpose of the bill - to lessen the penalties for minor possession of marijuana - will remain intact.
Under the bill, a person who is caught possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana would be subject to a $150 fine for a first violation, a $200 fine for a second violation, and a $500 fine for a third or subsequent violation. Gusciora, along with Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, will introduce an amendment that requires $50 of the violation fines to be allocated to the “Drug Education Program Fund” through the Department of Human Services, Division of Addiction Services; a move that was suggested by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner during Monday’s committee hearing.
"After hours of testimony heard on this legislation, I felt a few minor adjustments were necessary to perfect the legislation,” says Gusciora. “While the majority of committee testimony was favorable to the bill, some felt there should be a drug education component as well as giving judges the flexibility to order drug evaluations for repeat offenders.”
The bill will also be amended to permit judges to order a drug addiction evaluation for third time offenders.
“In our fiscal climate, many municipalities have had to cut important drug and alcohol education programs,” explains Gusciora. “This seeks to help keep these programs alive and intact to provide needed treatment and education in our communities………..I am confident that with these amendments we will have a model decriminalization bill that realistically addresses persons charged with possession of marijuana. Unfortunately under current penalties, the punishment does not fit the crime.”