The New Solutions Campaign: Marijuana Penalty Reform
Our Campaign supports Senate Bill 1977, which would reduce the current penalty for the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil infraction similar to a parking ticket. This legislation would both save money and enhance public safety, as it would eliminate these minor possession offenses from overburdened court dockets as well as free up limited law enforcement resources to better focus on serious offenses that immediately threaten community health and safety.
S1977 would also mitigate the racially disparate impact of current marijuana laws. In New Jersey, statistics show that African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession in grossly disproportionate numbers, despite the fact that white people use marijuana at slightly higher rates. Once convicted of even a minor possession offense, it becomes it difficult or impossible to secure employment, housing, student loans, or even a driver’s license. Absent a conviction, the consequences of a mere arrest can include immeasurable stigma and humiliation, the often unmanageable financial burden of posting bail and hiring a lawyer, and lost hours at work or school.