Trenton, NJ: Members of the state Assembly on Monday voted 44 to 30 in favor of Assembly Bill 1465, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of approximately one-half ounce of marijuana. Members of the state Assembly Judiciary Committee had previously approved the measure by a unanimous vote.
The bill now awaits action from the Senate. If the Senate also approves the measure then it faces action from Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who last week said that he would likely veto the bill, stating, "I don't think we should send any sort tacit approval to our children that somehow this is not bad anymore."
An override of the Governor's veto would require 54 'yes' votes in the Assembly and 27 'yes' votes in the Senate.
Under present law, the possession of small quantities of marijuana carries a penalty of up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail. A conviction also results in a criminal record that cannot be expunged for at least five years, the loss of driving privileges, and other penalties.
Earlier this month, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee enacted a similar marijuana decriminalization measure into law, amending pot possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense - punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record.
Seven states - California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and New York - similarly define the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Six additional states - Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon - treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500. Additional information regarding Assembly Bill 1465 is available from http://www.normlnj.org or NORML's 'Take Action' Center at: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=61508736.