TRENTON, N.J. – State Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) announced late on Friday afternoon that he is a “no” for Monday’s schedule floor vote on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey. According to Save Jersey sources on State Street, the bill is still far short of the necessary votes it needs to pass the State Senate, and the Assembly is unlikely to move without the upper chamber taking the first step. Lobbyists will stay busy over the weekend.
One less widely discussed aspect of the bill is its expungement provisions. In its current form, anyone possessing up to 5 pounds of marijuana will be able to expunge their records going forward.
Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) — who is also a criminal defense attorney — believes this particular provision is over-the-line, permitting convicted drug dealers to walk away without criminal records.
“Only in New Jersey would they expunge a drug dealer’s record for something that still remains a crime,” said Bramnick. “It’s outrageous that Trenton would expunge a drug dealer’s criminal background in an effort to gain enough votes for legalization.”
Presently, only disorderly drug offenses (possessing under 50 grams of marijuana) and certain distribution cases involving under 25 grams are eligible for expungement; 3rd and 4th degree crimes must clear a higher ‘public interest’ analysis.
The average joint contains 0.32 grams (or 0.01 ounces) of pot.
The Union County Republican also complained that the effort to expand a medical marijuana program is being tied by Democrats to the far more controversial recreational pot push.
“There is no good reason that patients should have to wait for better care until recreational marijuana is legalized,” added Bramnick.