Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Leading local prosecutor among those making the case for marijuana legalization in New Jersey

JH_Quote_Public_Safety_PageI highlighting in this post a few weeks ago that New Jersey may well be on a political path to become the first state to fully legalize marijuana via the traditional legislative process.   That political path may have been started in earnest this week with a state legislative hearing on the topic, and this local article report on a notable advocate at that hearing.  The article is headlined "Prosecutor says 'too many lives ruined' because marijuana is illegal in N.J.," and here are excerpts:

As a municipal prosecutor in Clark, Jon-Henry Barr said he must try a number of cases against people who get arrested for marijuana possession.  Barr also said he knows these cases can wreck good people's lives, and doesn't want to keep quiet about it anymore.  One case he won recently against a young black woman with no prior record "turned my stomach."

The former president of the New Jersey Municipal Prosecutors Association, Barr urged the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday to pass a law legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana because it is morally the right thing to do.  "Legalize and regulate it like we do with tobacco and alcohol," Barr said.  "I have seen too many lives ruined or damaged.  I'll continue to enforce the law -- that is my sworn duty. But I will not endorse the law."...

The supporters for Sen. Nicholas Scutari's bill (3195) far outweighed opponents.  The handful of detractors were called up to testify at the tail end of the five-hour Statehouse hearing.

Cathleen Lewis, the chairwoman for the coordinating council AAA Clubs in New Jersey, warned that legalizing marijuana will result in more people driving under the influence of the drug. A year after Washington legalized cannabis sales, the number of fatal crashes involving drivers who has used marijuana climbed from 8 percent to 17 percent, she said....

Philip Kirschner of Morristown, who described himself as a concerned parent pleaded with the committee to reconsider pursuing the bill at all.  "I know you want the tax money but let's be straight here: pass decriminalization first.  That is what most people came here and spoke about," Kirschner said.  "I plead with you, despite your rush for more taxes, to abandon this bill.  The cost in human lives and misery is simply not worth it."

Following the hearing, Scutari, the bill's sponsor and committee chairman, said the there were plenty of suggestions how lawmakers can shape the bill, including speeding-up the expungement process.  He said he didn't know whether he would call another hearing soon or wait for the new governor to take the place of Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch opponent.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2017/06/leading-local-prosecutor-among-those-making-the-case-for-marijuana-legalization-in-new-jersey.html

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