Plans to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Jersey have cleared a legislative hurdle.

The Assembly passed the bill Monday by a 44-30 vote. It would make possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana a civil penalty rather than a criminal one. Fines would range from $150 to $500, with $50 going toward drug education programs.

The measure has bipartisan support. But Gov. Chris Christie said at a town hall event last week he would veto the bill.

Christie says he's focused on implementing a strict state medical marijuana program, and easing pot laws would be contrary to that goal. He also says the state shouldn't undercut federal drug laws.

The state Senate has not yet considered the measure.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)