Time to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana [POLL]
This is the kind of item that should be on the ballot this coming November, because if it were, I’m sure the voters would say “yes”.
“Yes” to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
They’d probably say yes to an all out legalization of marijuana, but one has to crawl before one can walk.
In keeping in line with Governor Christie’s edict that first time drug offenders who commit no violent crime be given a sentence of drug court instead of going to jail; wouldn’t it make more sense to keep those who posses small amounts of marijuana out of jail?
Marijuana possession is a criminal offense that carries a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail in the Garden State.
But the poll of about 600 registered voters from across the state found 61 percent of the respondents support making possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a civil matter, like a speeding ticket.
This relaxing attitude toward marijuana is not confined to New Jersey. A recent Pew Research Center found 52 percent of Americans favored legalizing the use of marijuana.
Voters also want their elected officials to follow their lead on the issue, according to the poll that found 82 percent of those polled said that they would either be more likely to vote for an elected official who supported reducing penalties for marijuana possession, or that it would make no difference in their vote.
Roseanne Scotti, the New Jersey State director of the Drug Policy Alliance said lawmakers should pay attention to the will of the voters and act accordingly.
"More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010 at a cost of more than $125 million dollars," Scotti said. "New Jerseyans understand that current penalties for marijuana are unfair and wasteful. These laws should be changed now."
There hasn’t been any action on the decriminalization bills in a while. A bill (S1977) that would decriminalize the possession of up to 50 grams, or just under 2 ounces of marijuana, was introduced 13 months ago and has not been posted for a committee hearing.
Another bill (A1465), which would decriminalize up to 15 grams of pot, passed in the Assembly last year but stalled in the Senate. Gov. Chris Christie has said he would veto any decriminalization bill.
Especially given the slow pace of the implementation of the medical marijuana program, as a former prosecutor, it doesn’t surprise me that the Governor would veto a bill were it come to his desk decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
But then again, why send drug users to drug court as an alternative to jail; but possibly send marijuana users to jail for basically doing the same thing?