New Jersey legislators look likely to further the Garden State’s withdrawl from the War on Drugs after proposing a law that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. The bill was unanimously passed by committee, and could be voted on in the Assembly as soon as Thursday. The law would closely resemble the Portuguese decriminalization policy, whereby possession is not a criminal offense and punishable by a fine. The bipartisan proposal would be the latest in a series of policy changes that relaxes the fervor of the drug war in New Jersey. New Jersey has already reduced the size of drug-free school zones and legalized medical marijuana. After the successes of the Portuguese model, there is no reason to think that New Jersey will not enjoy similar successes, that is of course unless the administration decides to continue its own trend of overreach.
Like many laws that move towards a more liberal drug policy the New Jersey proposal is motivated in large part by the failures and costs of the war on drugs. Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer made the economic argument saying that, “The real crime is to taxpayers. It’s really costly for taxpayers to prosecute that one joint when limited resources would be better served on bigger and better crimes.” Jack Cole, a retired New Jersey State Police detective lieutenant and chairman of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, noted that the war on drugs has failed to reduce the rate of addiction, “$1.5 trillion has been spent over four decades and 46 million arrests made of nonviolent drug offenders — and that after all that, the same percentage of the population, 1.3 percent, is addicted to drugs as was in 1914 and 1970. Even more concerning is that police solve far fewer major crimes now than ever before,”
While it is encouraging that New Jersey legislators look prepared to let law enforcement professionals tackle serious crimes and reduce the number of prisoners in already overcrowded prisons, federal oversight could prove to be obstructive, especially if California’s experience is anything to go by. If the Obama administration reacted so strongly to legal medical marijuana dispensaries it is safe to assume that New Jersey could see a similar response to the decriminalization of marijuana possession.
Obama, who began as someone who supported state rights with regard to drugs, has become one of the most aggressive perpetrators of the drug war. As the ReasonTV video below shows, such a drastic change in policy will only alienate many of Obama’s usual supporters.