Wary of legalizing recreational pot, two N.J. lawmakers propose decriminalization

(Brennan Linsley/AP Photo, file)

(Brennan Linsley/AP Photo, file)

Some New Jersey lawmakers are introducing legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Decriminalization would keep people from being sent to jail, said Sen. Bob Singer. But he remains opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana use.

“Somebody said it would be good for tourism,said Singer, R-Ocean. “Shame on us if that’s how we want to bring tourism in. Shame on us if that’s how we want to make money.”

Sen. Ron Rice said decriminalization is a social justice issue, with blacks prosecuted and imprisoned for marijuana law violations at rate far greater than whites.

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He’s also opposed to marijuana legalization, claiming that could have a negative impact on inner-city neighborhoods.

“What are we allowing money people to come and tell us to use as a tool to sell a product that may hurt our community without us doing in-depth research and thinking through what’s happening in our communities today?” said Rice, D-Essex.

Amol Sinha, the executive director of the Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said decriminalization might perpetuate some harms.

“We have a situation where minorities are disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement,” Sinha said. “We’re still going to have an enforcement scheme after decriminalization, and we’re pretty certain that minorities are going to bear the brunt of that.”

Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, said decriminalization could exacerbate problems.

“Where you going to get it from?. You’re going to get it from an illegal drug dealer,” he said. “You’re going to get it from somebody that has questionable product, that has other things such as pills, heroin, LSD.”

Gov. Phil Murphy supports legalization, and lawmakers are expected to consider a bill to do so in the spring.

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