TRENTON, N.J. (Mar. 21, 2018) – A bill filed in the New Jersey Assembly would legalize marijuana, setting the foundation to nullify federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.
Asm. Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) introduced Assembly Bill 3581 (A3581) on Mar. 12. The legislation would allow adults 21 or older to possess, use, purchase or transport “marijuana paraphernalia; one ounce or less of marijuana; 16 ounces or less of marijuana-infused product in solid form; 72 ounces or less in liquid form; 7 grams or less of marijuana concentrate; and up to 6 immature marijuana plants.”
Disobeying the rules and regulations for possession and distribution of marijuana would still be considered a criminal offense under the law. Local communities could ban retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities and manufacturing centers under A3581. Marijuana processors, retailers and transporters would have to be licensed by the state.
Gusciora once served as a prosecutor and saw the resources that were wasted on marijuana cases first hand. This is what makes him such a vocal proponent of reform.
“Ninety percent of the arrests on the municipal level are about a joint found in an ashtray,” Asm. Gusciora said to Philly.com. “The person faces up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, a six-month loss of their driver’s license and $800 in other fees that the state assesses, he said. ”It’s an expensive proposition for everyone.”
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as A3581 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the feds maintain complete prohibition of cannabis. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Legalization of marijuana in New Jersey would remove another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, New Jersey essentially sweeps away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Medical marijuana is currently legalized in New Jersey. Passage of A3581 would further ignore federal prohibition and nullify it in practice in the state. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 29 states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
A3581 was referred to the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.