Tags: Marijuana | New Jersey | CBD

New Jersey Takes Major Steps Toward Marijuana Legalization

a marijuana plant
(AFP via Getty Images)

By Thursday, 25 June 2020 08:18 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Last week, the New Jersey State Assembly approved a marijuana decriminalization bill which would make possession of up to two ounces of cannabis a simple civil penalty punishable by just a $50 fine with no jail time attached to the offense. This measure cleared the lower chamber of the New Jersey Legislature by a vote of 63 to 10, with five abstentions.

Additionally, under the proposal the possession of more than two ounces but less than one pound of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in prison or up to a $1,000 fine on a first offense, which are much lighter penalties than the ones now on the books.

This current bill which is now advancing to the New Jersey State Senate is really just a warmup to a broader referendum on legalizing marijuana, which will appear on this November's ballot and has inspired strong arguments both for and against.

The interest in the decriminalization and eventual legalization of marijuana is an issue that has heated up recently in America, especially as national protests over racial injustice, particularly in regard to historical sentencing statistics, are perceived to have contributed to disparities in the criminal justice system.

Many would argue that the First Step Act (FSA), signed into law by President Donald Trump in November of 2018, largely solved the issue of what were largely disproportionate drug sentencing guidelines for multiple offenses connected to cannabis. As a result of the FSA, over 16,000 nonviolent inmates who would otherwise been sentenced to serve time in prison wound up being enrolled in drug treatment programs which are now offered as part of a new addiction treatment strategy managed by the Bureau of Prisons.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union report "The War on Marijuana in Black and White," marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug-related arrests in America. The report also indicated that of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simple possession. Another trend revealed by the report was a major racial disparity in the arrest numbers. Despite generally equal rates of marijuana usage, Blacks were 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.

Another updated report form the ACLU called "A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform," stated that after analysis of marijuana arrests from 2010 to 2018, Black people are still more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people in all 50 states, including states that have recently legalized the drug.

Another element to the argument for legalization, perhaps on a national scale, are the medicinal benefits of the drug. Cannabidiol (CBD), which is derived from the same herbaceous plant genus that produces the marijuana used for smoking, is the active ingredient in a large swath of new products marketed as "alternative medicine" that has been proved to aid in regulation of seizures. Many also believe it provides benefits in a wide array of conditions including chronic pain in cancer patients, treatment of glaucoma, management of anxiety and treatment of inflammatory bowel conditions.

Additionally, after three randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex in 2018. Epidiolex, which is a purified CBD extract, is used to treat rare seizure disorders in patients 2 years or older.

There are many who feel that legalization of marijuana may contribute to the degeneration of moral standards in America. Conflicting opinions and statistics on previous experiments in states like Colorado and Washington have still been mostly inconclusive. The recent actions in New Jersey should not come as a surprise as marijuana legislation was a central issue to Gov. Phil Murphy's 2017 campaign, and now, as the state faces a projected $10 billion shortfall through fiscal year 2021, the time for the state to find additional income streams is upon us.

Julio Rivera is a small business consultant, political activist, writer and Editorial Director for Reactionary Times. He has been a regular contributor to Newsmax TV and columnist for Newsmax.com since 2016. His writing, which is concentrated on politics, cybersecurity and sports, has also been published by websites including The Hill, The Washington Times, LifeZette, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Toronto Sun and PJ Media and many others. Read Julio Rivera's Reports — More Here.

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