Proposed law decriminalizes possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana in NJ, imposes civil penalties, and establishes fund for drug education. A218
This bill would decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana.
This bill amends N.J.S.2C:35-10, possession, use or being under the influence, to provide that a person who is found to possess 15 grams or less of marijuana would be subject to a civil penalty: $150 fine for a first violation, a $200 fine for a second violation, and a $500 fine for a third or subsequent violation. The bill allows the court to waive the penalties in case of extreme financial hardship.
Under the current law, possession of more than 15 grams but less than 50 grams (a disorderly persons offense) and possession of 50 grams or more (which is a crime of the fourth degree) would remain unchanged.
Under current law, it is a disorderly persons offense to use or be under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance, or its analog, for a purpose other than the treatment of sickness or injury as lawfully prescribed or administered by a physician. This bill provides that it would not be violation to be under the influence of marijuana. Under current law, it is also a disorderly person offense to unlawfully obtain or possess a controlled dangerous substance, or its analog, and to fail to voluntarily deliver it to the nearest law enforcement officer. The bill provides that this statute would not apply to possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana.
Currently, use or possessing with intent to use drug paraphernalia is a disorderly persons offense. The bill provides that a person who possesses drug paraphernalia for the personal use of 15 grams or less of marijuana would not be guilty of a criminal violation but instead would be subject to a $100 civil penalty.
The bill would amend N.J.S.2B:12-17 which sets out the jurisdiction of the municipal court to add jurisdiction for the new civil penalties created by the bill.
Under section 1 of P.L.1964, c.289 (C.39:4-49.1) a person who operates a motor vehicle while in possession with a controlled dangerous substance or prescription drugs without a valid prescription is subject to a fine of not less $50 and forfeits his right to operate a motor vehicle for two years. The bill provides that these penalties would not apply to possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana.
The bill provides that all fines would be recovered by and in the name of the State by the local municipality and would be paid into the treasury of the municipality in which the violation occurred for the general uses of the municipality.
In addition, the bill provides that any person who is 21 years of age or older who commits a third or subsequent violation would be referred to a drug education program approved by the Division of Mental Health and Addition Services in the Department of Human Services.
A person who is less than 21 years of age at the time of the violation would be referred to an approved drug education program following any violation. The person who committed the violation would be responsible for paying any costs associated with his participation in the program, consistent with his ability to pay.
If the violation is committed by a person under the age of 18, the person would be referred to the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court for an appropriate disposition.
The Commissioner of Human Services would adopt any rules and regulations necessary to effectuate the purposes the bill.
The civil penalties under the bill would not apply to any person who is in compliance with the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” N.J.S.A.24:6I-1 et al.
The bill also provides that $50 of each penalty imposed pursuant to the bill would be forwarded by the municipality to the State to be deposited in the “Drug Education Program Fund” which would be established by the bill. The remainder of the penalty monies collected would be retained by the municipality for the general uses of the municipality. The court may waive the penalties in cases of extreme financial hardship. The “Drug Education Program Fund” would be a dedicated, nonlapsing, revolving fund in the Department of the Treasury. Monies deposited in the fund would be appropriated to the Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services for drug education programs.
The bill authorizes the court to order professional diagnostic assessments of adults who have committed a third or subsequent offense to determine whether they would benefit from drug treatment. The person would pay for the assessment. If the assessment shows that the person would benefit from drug treatment the person would be referred for such treatment, and would be responsible for paying any treatment costs. The bill would not change the disposition of offenders under the age of 18. Under the bill, these offenders would be referred to the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part for an appropriate disposition.
The bill also specifies that, other than the civil penalties imposed by the bill, the court would not impose additional fines, penalties, or fees, except court costs.
Sponsored by Sponsored by:
Assemblyman REED GUSCIORA
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Assemblyman MICHAEL PATRICK CARROLL
District 25 (Morris and Somerset)
Assemblywoman BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Assemblywoman L. GRACE SPENCER
District 29 (Essex)
Assemblyman GORDON M. JOHNSON
District 37 (Bergen)
Assemblyman RAJ MUKHERJI
District 33 (Hudson)
Assemblywomen Vainieri Huttle, Tucker, Assemblymen Caputo, O'Scanlon, Diegnan, Assemblywomen Stender, Lampitt, Jasey, Assemblyman Coughlin, Assemblywoman Casagrande, Assemblyman Eustace, Assemblywomen Sumter, Quijano and Assemblyman Wimberly