Should NJ Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana? [POLL]
We’ve already heard what the Governor has to say about the legalization of marijuana.
If not, here’s the recap:
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However nothing’s been said about decriminalizing those who are in possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The idea is to unburden the courts with the cost of having to prosecute offenders – keep them out of jail – and not have the offense mar them for life.
No one asked the question – and the Governor never had the chance to address it.
But we know that he approves of the drug court program, which keeps non-violent users of drugs out of jail and into an intense program of supervision.
Note I said “out of jail!”
Do we want those who’ve been “pinched” with possession of small amounts of marijuana to have to go before a court and possibly have that possession on their record.
Some prosecutors will tell you flat out: no!
Jon-Henry Barr is a municipal prosecutor in Clark and Kenilworth and has prosecuted his share of drug cases over a 14-year career. But a case last year changed his mind about his role in the war on drugs. The case concerned a young woman whose attorney claimed police had illegally searched her.
“This particular case took several days of testimony. I had to put several police officers on the stand. I had to do some legal research, argue the case and at the end of the case, the judge agreed,” recalled Barr.
Barr estimates thousands of dollars were spent to prosecute the case. The crime? Possession of one joint. It was a hollow victory that got Barr to thinking that the war on drugs — marijuana at least — was a futile exercise, wasting taxpayer dollars and making criminals of otherwise upstanding citizens. So in February, Barr, who is president of the 150-member New Jersey Municipal Prosecutors Association, put a resolution before his membership to support of Sen. Nick Scutari’s proposed bill to legalize marijuana.
“All we’re really doing is punishing people for possession of marijuana, which most of us don’t see as being that much worse than possession of alcohol,” he said.
But Gov. Christie is of a different mindset. While he implemented the country’s strictest medical marijuana law, he has said repeatedly, and his spokesperson reiterated today, that he won’t do more.
“I will not decriminalize marijuana. I will not permit recreational use. I will not legalize marijuana because I think that is the wrong message to send to children in this state and to young adults,” the governor told a crowd at a town hall meeting in Flemington recently.
Barr, a Republican, says the jury’s still out on the gateway theory.
The climate in New Jersey may be more permissive toward marijuana use but there’s no popular consensus on legalization. And so long as the governor remains adamantly opposed, supporters of legalization still have some ways to go before buying marijuana becomes as easy as going to the local liquor store.
It seems apparent that even decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana would be met with the same fate at full-out legalization.
But if the object of drug court is to keep drug users out of jail – thereby spending less money to treat them than to incarcerate them, wouldn’t it have the same result to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana?
Funny to see how the Governor doesn’t see that!