Trenton—Democrats and Republicans on the Assembly Judiciary Committee have found common ground on a bill decriminalizing possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana, voting unanimously on Monday to forward it to the full chamber. The committee’s five Democrats and two Republicans heard almost uniformly supportive testimony for about an hour before the vote. If passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, it would downgrade possession of up to 35 marijuana cigarettes and drug paraphernalia, making both civil offenses punishable by fines of $100 to $500. Offenders under age 18 and those with multiple infractions would be referred for drug counseling. “The time has come to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, chairman of the committee and a Democratic sponsor of the legislation, said during the hearing. The bill has the backing of 15 Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors. Gov. Chris Christie’s office said he hadn’t taken a position on the bill. Mr. Christie has spoken passionately in recent weeks about a proposal to require mandatory drug treatment, rather than jail, for nonviolent drug offenders, arguing that addiction is a disease best treated by methods other than incarceration. The administration has stalled on implementing New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, which was signed before Mr. Christie became governor and which worried the former federal prosecutor as potentially too permissive. The Senate version of the decriminalization bill, introduced Thursday, hasn’t had a hearing. The law would bring New Jersey’s marijuana laws more in line with its neighbors. New York and Connecticut are among more than a dozen states that have decriminalized possession of the drug.
via : Wall Street Journal
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