New Jersey Attorney General says Jersey City Can’t Decriminalize Marijuana

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Jersey City made headlines as the first city in New Jersey to decriminalize marijuana. Yet within hours, New Jersey’s Attorney General said the city had no authority to do so.

In a letter sent Friday, July 20, 2018, to Jersey City Chief Municipal Prosecutor Jacob Hudnut, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal informed him that “you do not have the legal authority to decriminalize marijuana,” further instructing Hudnut that “your memorandum is void and has no effect.”

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Hudnut directed the city’s prosecutors to “use their discretion in deciding which cases to pursue” in an attempt to end criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession, according to NJTV News.

“We feel that while New Jersey is having the conversation about legalization, it is unfair to continue to burden people with misdemeanors, what New Jersey calls disorderly persons offense, convictions and the collateral consequences that come with those convictions,” Hudnut told NJTV News. “We’re adding our voice to the conversation in New Jersey.”

Grewal silenced Jersey City’s voice by writing that the municipal prosecutor’s’ duties are “to ensure the uniform and proper administration of justice in this State,” adding that the city’s memorandum violated state law. The attorney general added that policies regarding criminal law are enacted by the Senate and General Assembly and “not determined by municipal prosecutors based on ‘[r]ecent public opinion polling.’”

Grewal made it clear that Hudnut was subject to his supervisory authority as the attorney general, directed that the New Marijuana Decriminalization Policy was void and that Hudnut’s office was to “prosecute all offenses within your jurisdiction.”

Fulop tweeted his support of Hudnut’s policy change, calling Grewal’s position “baffling.”

Fulop further tweeted that he and Hudnut “respect the letter, but don’t agree.”

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  1. A new policy goes into effect March 1, 2017 for people caught with misdemeanor amounts of marijuana in Harris County.

    Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the new marijuana policy earlier this month. She says it will save the county millions of dollars and free up resources to focus on prosecuting violent crimes.

    The new Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, which takes effect on March 1, 2017, will divert all misdemeanor marijuana cases — involving up to four ounces — out of the criminal justice system, instead redirecting low-level drug offenders into a decision-making class.
    Harris County marijuana prosecution by the numbers
    Harris County spends approximately $26 million each year prosecuting 10,000 misdemeanor marijuana cases
    Crime labs spend $1.7 million testing evidence for those 10,000 cases
    On average, it takes four hours of a law enforcement officer’s time to arrest, transport and book a misdemeanor offender
    Harris County spends $13 million housing marijuana offenders, who each spend an average of 6 days in jail
    Low-level marijuana cases account for 10 percent of cases on Harris County court dockets.

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