Pot Progress: NJ Prosecutors Reverse Age-old Position and Now Support Marijuana Legalization

The majority of municipal prosecutors in the state want to nix marijuana prohibition.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Yarygin

Huge strides were made in the struggle for marijuana legalization on Tuesday: The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association said they support legalizing the possession of pot. This is significant because the association leads the prosecution of all marijuana related charges in the state. 

“Each week, New Jersey police officers arrest hundreds of citizens for the disorderly persons offense of possession of under 50 grams of marijuana,” said Jon-Henry Barr, president of the board of trustees of the Municipal Prosecutors Association, to the Ashby Park Press

The paper reported that Barr's other reasons for backing marijuana legalization include: 

• Requests by prosecutors to analyze samples of marijuana are overwhelming the state’s drug-testing laboratories, sometimes leading to dismissals of cases when defendants invoke their rights to speedy trials;
• Studies show that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, nicotine or caffeine;
• Marijuana is easier for high school students to obtain than alcohol because the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated;
• Very few of the thousands of DWI cases prosecuted annually are for driving under the influence of marijuana;
• Statistics show that African-Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people, but there is no evidence to show there is disproportionately more marijuana use in minority communities;
• The state loses money by not collecting sales tax on marijuana, while drug dealers profit.
“The time has come to understand that this particular offense makes about as much sense as prohibition of alcohol did,” Barr said. “It is time to stop the insanity.”
Although the majority of the prosecutors backed legalization, there were others in the state who still take issue with the idea.
Bonnie Peterson, another municipal prosecutor, disagrees with legalization, citing the potential for intoxicated driving that opponents so often cite.
"As municipal prosecutors, we’re so concerned with people driving while intoxicated and trying to keep the roadways safe,” Peterson said to the Ashby Park Press. “It’s not clear to me (marijuana) has no effect on people’s ability to drive.”
Still, other prosecutors note the absurd effects that prohibition has on their job. 
“I would no longer have to prosecute a bunch of 18-year-olds who went to a frat party,” said municipal prosecutor Steve Rubin. 
The Marijuana Policy Project notes that this support comes at a critical time for cannabis legislation in the state. Two bills have recently been introduced; one bill permits citizens to carry an ounce or less of marijuana, while the other sets up a tax-and-regulate system. 


Aaron Cantú is an investigator for the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_
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