NJ Politics Digest: State AG Puts Pressure on Legislature to Change Pot Laws

New Jersey prosecutors will resume moving forward with cases against people charged with marijuana offenses after Sept. 4.

Gurbir Grewal.
Gurbir Grewal. Christian Hetrick for Observer

New Jersey lawmakers aren’t making fast progress on changing the state’s marijuana laws, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has taken steps that could hold their feet to the fire.

On Wednesday, Grewal ordered prosecutors to once again resume moving forward with cases against people charged with marijuana offenses once his Sept. 4 deadline for suspending court action on pot cases expires, according to a story in The Record.

The attorney general said that while prosecutors can exercise discretion in marijuana cases, they “cannot decriminalize conduct that the legislature has criminalized,” the Record reported.

Grewal’s move comes after state Senate President Stephen Sweeney expressed confidence that he has the votes to pass legislation legalizing recreational use of marijuana as early as next month. Grewal’s boss, Gov. Phil Murphy, has said he supports legalizing recreational marijuana use. But other members of the legislature, led by Democratic Senator Ron Rice, favor decriminalizing use of the drug instead.

Members of a 20-person panel convened by Grewal to study state marijuana laws said the attorney general’s order to resume prosecutions highlights the need for the legislature to change the laws the way that Murphy would like.

Amol Sinha, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, lavished praise on Grewal “for recognizing the devastating impacts that a marijuana charge can have on individuals and their families,” but said state law must be changed “to bring justice to all New Jerseyans,” according to the report.

Jersey City Prosecutor Jake Hudnut, who also served on Grewal’s panel, said the “racially disparate and costly arrests and prosecutions of marijuana possession will not be solved until New Jersey enacts legalization,” the Record report said.

Quote of the Day: “I don’t know what the legislature is going to come up with, and I don’t know when they’re going to come up with it. I know that there are a number of cases in municipal court and they can’t be stayed indefinitely.” — State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, on his decision to resume prosecuting marijuana cases while the legislature works toward a bill to legalize recreational pot use.

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NJ Politics Digest: State AG Puts Pressure on Legislature to Change Pot Laws