By Matt Rooney
Recreational weed is on the menu today in Trenton, Save Jerseyans.
I’m a New Jersey municipal court practitioner as some of you already know, so I might as well be the one to say it since the Trenton crowd apparently doesn’t know (or care) about getting their facts straight:
The ‘social justice’ argument for recreational weed legalization is extremely dishonest.
Possession of under 50 grams is already a disorderly offense handled in municipal court (the average joint has about 0.32 grams), and offenders very rarely to go to jail for a first offense. You’re only going to Superior Court if you were charged with possessing large quantities and, given that approximately 0.32 is an average joint, possession of 50 or more grams would likely be considered more than a mere youthful indiscretion in most observers’ eyes. And there’s more: you’re probably already eligible for a conditional dismissal (a program whereby your record can remain clean on the other end upon complying with certain conditions, the most important of which is no new offenses over a specified period of time) if you’ve got a clean record.
Unfortunately, many offenders do NOT come to court on pot charges with clean records. If you’ve already pleaded guilty to simple assault two towns over? Or availed yourself of a conditional dismissal for a shoplifting charge last year stemming from an incident at the local supermarket? You’re out of luck.
Facts should matter in these debates. I know, how quaint! Here’s one: there aren’t legions of young men in New Jersey left with no choice but (1) go to jail and/or (2) have criminal records for first time possession of joints or dime bags.
It’s #FakeNews, just like the arguments for recreational weed predicated upon a mythical overnight billion dollar revenue haul that lack any basis whatsoever in economic reality (click here for my post on that particular topic).
What about the states where pot is already legal? Are they social justice wonderlands? Not quite. Crime rates in Colorado aren’t improving, and the outgoing Democrat governor refused to rule out supporting making it illegal again. Violent crime is on the rise in California, too. We can debate causation under we’re blue in the face; the point is that recreational marijuana is being sold to the public as some sort of elixir for our social ills, including inner city incarceration rates, and yet there isn’t a shred of evidence to support that conclusion as of yet in the places where it’s being tried. Might the evidence be slow in coming? Maybe. Anything’s possible, but lawyers (like good legislators) can’t assume facts not in evidence.
Now, if your support for legal pot is liberty based? Fine. That’s an altogether different discussion. Overall, I’m a firm believer that our drug laws (or any laws for that matter) shouldn’t be immune from scrutiny, and the related push to expand/overhaul/improve the expungement system represents another conversation worth having. I believe (scratch that: know) the problems which lead to incarceration start much sooner than exposure to that first adolescent encounter with weed. I’m still willing to put everything on the table because the problem is that serious.
But please spend some time in a courtroom before pretending you’re somehow going to save our civilization (and its young adults) with cheaper weed. You have no idea what you’re talking about.