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New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association supports bill to legalize pot

A new bill has been endorsed by the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association which calls for legalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. According to the association’s president, the time and money spent on marijuana cases is just ‘silly.’

The Association’s board of trustees were the first of its kind in the nation to vote as the leader of an international group of law enforcement officials who were seeking the legalization of pot. The bill intends to allow adults 21 years and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and also grow as many as six plants. However, public use of the drug would be prohibited.

The board of trustees voted 7-2 to support the legislation, with only one abstention. According to the association’s President Jon-Henry Barr, the bill was introduced by one of its members, Nicholas Scutari, who is also the Linden prosecutor and state Sen. According to Scutari, he did not ask the prosecutors’ association for the endorsement but is pleased to get it. “As the primary prosecutors of these offenders, we have come to the realization this is a humongous waste of public resources,” he said.

Barr, who is also the municipal prosecutor in Kenilworth and Clark, said, “This is something a lot of prosecutors have been thinking but never talked about.” According to him, he has spent hours and hours litigating the issue of suppression motions because police usually retrieve marijuana without a search warrant, and all the hassle just comes out to be over a joint, which is just silly. He also said that so many other prosecutors also hold the same opinion. On the other hand, there were prosecutors who were so troubled by the vote that they quit the association. The identity of those prosecutors was not revealed.

LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), an international group of police and corrections officers, prosecutors and judges that seeks the repeal of marijuana possession laws, praised the association’s endorsement.

According to LEAP’s co-founder, Jack Cole, it is wonderful that things are changing. “Finally, prosecutors are making sense,” he stated.

Cole mentioned that usually law enforcement groups oppose legalization bills. He feels that the bill will free up a lot of time for prosecutors and will help alleviate their job. ” This is the first (endorsement) I have ever heard,” he said.

According to the bill, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control would be expanded to regulate the new taxable industry. Revenue from the taxable industry would be used to fund projects like drug prevention, women health problems and enforcement efforts.

Gov. Chris Christie intends to veto the bill if it is passed by the Legislature. He thinks that legalizing marijuana will lead to harder problems of drug use. Barr does not think that the association’s endorsement will change the governor’s mind. According to Barr, a growing number of Republicans support legalization, and even if the governor does not approve, it does not matter. With time, there may be a new governor who will be open minded, and eventually it will become legal. It is only a matter of when.

By Susan K. Livio

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