NJ Politics Digest: With Legal Pot on Hold, Is Decriminalization Next?

New Jersey is revamping its marijuana arrest policy. MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

Now that it appears New Jersey won’t be legalizing marijuana until at least after November 2020, state legislators might move this week to essentially decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.

NJ.com reports that a bill to expunge the records of people with cannabis offenses would reduce the penalties for anyone caught with up to two ounces of marijuana to a civil citation carrying a $50 fine.
Other cannabis-related offenses would remain as criminal charges but carry reduced penalties, according to the report.

Legislative committees are expected to consider the plan alongside expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program.

According to the report, provisions of the plan would allow people already convicted of cannabis-related offenses to apply for an expedited expungement of their records. People arrested on cannabis charges after the bill takes effect would also be able to apply for expungement, the report said.

The bill, however, isn’t guaranteed to pass. Senate President Steve Sweeney, who favors legalization of recreational marijuana use, has said he doesn’t favor the lesser step of decriminalization. NJ.com said Sweeney didn’t get back to them when asked for comment on the proposal.

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