NJ Pot Decriminalization Bill Makes It Out Of Committee And Heads To Dem-Controlled Assembly


RAW STORY: A New Jersey General Assembly panel approved on Monday a bill that would lower the penalty for possessing a small amount of marijuana to a mere $150 fine for first-time offenders, essentially decriminalizing the drug by making possession a non-arrest offense. But Gov. Chris Christie (R), who’s supported drug reforms in the past, has refused to take a position on it, with an aide telling Raw Story on Monday that he won’t be commenting on the proposal any time soon. Current New Jersey law requires a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail for individuals charged with minor marijuana possession. Under the bill approved for consideration by the full Assembly on Monday, getting caught with up to 15 grams of pot would be more akin to receiving a traffic ticket, with second and third offenses triggering escalating fines but no arrest. Sponsored by Assemblyman and deputy majority leader Reed Gusciora (D), the bill represents the most viable push toward sentencing reform the state has seen in a generation. “This bill would put us in line with neighboring states like Connecticut and New York, which recently decriminalized marijuana possession,” Gusciora said in a statement. “The bill recognizes the realities of our current drug laws, which are overly punitive for marijuana and taxing on our criminal justice system.” Still, it’s not clear if the bill will make it out of a debate by the full assembly. But with Democrats in command of majorities in both the state’s general assembly and senate, it could pass without even a single vote of support from Republicans — except Gov. Christie, that is, whose veto would condemn the decriminalization bill to failure. There is hope that he will listen, however. MORE

RELATED: Andy Caffrey, a candidate for Congress in California, has made a rather unusual campaign promise: If he wins, he’ll smoke a joint — right on the steps of Capitol Hill. The 54-year-old is running on a seven-step platform that prioritizes battling the climate crisis, but the casual manner in which puffs pot on the campaign trail — including twice just last week — is what has captivated local media covering the Second Congressional District House race. And Caffrey admits that this is precisely what he’s aiming for. “I’m willing to get arrested to fight for our rights, to defend our rights as Californians to consume medicine,” Caffrey, a registered Democrat, said in an interview. “If I have to do it, I’ll smoke a joint on the Capitol steps and get arrested to draw national attention to what’s going on.” Although he doesn’t smoke every day, Caffrey says he’s been smoking cannabis with a doctor’s approval for about six or seven years, and always carries a physician’s note in case he’s questioned by law enforcement officials. MORE