Reform Group Says the Number of Marijuana Busts in NJ is ‘Insane’
Coming in with the second-highest yearly total on record, New Jersey in 2014 saw 24,689 marijuana possession arrests, according to the latest crime statistics.
A New Jersey group devoted to marijuana reform, specifically its legalization and taxation, claim this number helps their case.
"We see that number as insane," said Ari Rosmarin of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. "As the whole country, in many respects, is heading in one direction on marijuana law, New Jersey appears to be heading in the other."
In a conversation with Townsquare Media, Rosmarin said the possession arrests, which generally comprise pot amounts under 50 grams, are just wasting time and money while damaging people's lives.
According to the group, hundreds of millions of dollars can be generated annually through the legalization of marijuana for adults, based on the experiences of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. A handful of additional states have the issue on the ballot for later this year.
Jon-Henry Barr, the municipal prosecutor in the Union County township of Clark, has dealt with an "amazing cross-section" of New Jersey, from teenagers to senior citizens, while handling cases involving marijuana possession.
Barr, also in favor of legalization, said the focus shouldn't be on the number of arrests each year, but how many people are using marijuana and not getting caught.
"We have an absurd system with no regulation for the overwhelming majority of marijuana sales that take place in the state of New Jersey," Barr told New Jersey 101.5. "What we need to do is get a regulatory hold of this problem and completely change the way we deal with marijuana."
Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora for years has been pushing for the decriminalization of small quantities of weed. His proposal has never reached the governor's desk, although it was approved by the Assembly in 2012.
Of all the crimes listed in the State Police's Uniform Crime Report, none resulted in more arrests than marijuana possession in 2014. And of all drug possession arrests made statewide, more than half were for possession of weed.
New Jersey currently permits the use of marijuana for medical reasons.
In a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released June 2015, 58 percent of New Jerseyans said they strongly or somewhat support the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and over.
A 2012 law signed by Christie, who opposes legalization, mandated that nonviolent drug offenders be processed by Drug Courts, which focus on treatment and recovery rather than incarceration.