Gov. Phil Murphy said he is “not a big fan” of a proposal to decriminalize possession of marijuana, days after the state Legislature’s top elected official also threw cold water on the measure.
The state Assembly and Senate were both slated to vote on a bill Thursday to set up an expungement process for low-level cannabis criminal offenses, only for the votes to be cancelled earlier this week.
Although the Senate is expected to vote on the measure – Senate Bill 3205 – next week, it is not clear when the Assembly will hold a vote on the expungement legislation.
More unclear is whether lawmakers will ever hold a vote on the decriminalization proposal – Assembly Bill 5325 – which would decriminalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, turning it into a civil penalty with a $50 fine.
“[Decriminalization] leaves business in the hands of the bad guys, we don’t make any money out of it, our kids are exposed,” Murphy said at an unrelated event Thursday at Rowan University in Mount Laurel Township.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said earlier this week that decriminalization of marijuana would be “problematic” and that it would enhance the state’s black market.
“I think that the Attorney General can actually deal with this piece, they did it earlier,” Sweeney said, pointing to last summer where the attorney general’s office “came out with rules not to prosecute people for marijuana possession.”
Over the summer, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal instructed all municipal prosecutors to hold off on marijuana offenses pending in municipal court until September when the OAG came out with longer-term rules governing marijuana prosecution.
Grewal ultimately issued directives in September saying that municipal prosecutors could use discretion on a “case-by-case” basis in determining whether to amend or dismiss low-level marijuana offenses or bring charges in the first place.
Then in April, Grewal revealed that any new police drug-sniffing dogs were not being trained to pick up the scent of cannabis and the new dogs would eventually phase out canines trained to pick up the scent of marijuana.