Bipartisan Effort in New Jersey Legislature To Put Marijuana on the Ballot

Would legalize possession of up to an ounce


three out of four of these would still be illegal

Two assemblymen in New Jersey, one Democrat and one Republican, have introduced a bill in the state legislature that would put the question of whether to legalize possession of marijuana under an ounce. The Daily Chronic explains:

In order to get on the ballot, the bill needs to be passed by the State Assembly and Senate and signed by Governor Chris Christie.

If Assembly Bill 2842 passes the legislature, voters in New Jersey would be asked to approve legalizing marijuana possession in November.

If this bill is passed, New Jersey would be the first state to pass a marijuana legalization measure of any kind through a state legislature.

It should be noted that this bill does not address taxation, regulation or cultivation of marijuana and current criminal penalties still apply to possession of over one ounce.

Hopefully, the omission of a tax and regulatory regime for legalized marijuana is a feature, not a bug. The criminal penalties remaining for possession of more than one ounce, however, will ensure the sale of marijuana remains illegal, keeping those entrepreneurs who bravely try to meet the demand for marijuana in New Jersey in the black market. That's an unfortunate state of affairs; the right to sell marijuana free of government molestation is as important as the right to use marijuana free of government molestation.

It's the same situation as that faced by dealers under "decriminalization," which New Jersey currently has for marijuana in quantities up to 1.7 ounces (50 grams). Decriminalization, in place in many states, retains some penalties and fines associated with possession. In New Jersey it's a disorderly persons offense that can cost someone caught with marijuana six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. Decriminalized marijuana is not a workable legal status for the product because of the tension between the decriminalized possession of and criminalized distribution of marijuana. The fines and even jail time in place under "decriminalization," too, are a tacit admission by the State that the possession of marijuana for personal use is not a public safety concern, but merely a potential revenue stream for government.

Decriminalization, then, and even the baby step New Jersey is starting to take toward legalization, is by necessity a transitional arrangement. For possession of even "small" amounts of marijuana to be permitted requires the possession of larger amounts for the purpose of sale to be legal. Once government has acknowledged the right to possess and use marijuana, it must legalize the sale of it as well. Otherwise it is effectively restricting a right it has already conceded exists, something it can't do indefinitely no matter how much cognitive dissonance politicians practice.

Related: Last summer I listed five states I thought could legalize marijuana next. New Jersey didn't make it.