Following a meeting yesterday between officials from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the City of Jersey City, state AG Gurbir Grewal has issued a directive where marijuana cases will not be prosecuted until September.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
This morning, a memo was released to all 21 county prosecutors regarding a 30-day statewide adjournment of all marijuana charges and soon-to-be developed statewide guidelines with regard to downgrades and dismissal of simple marijuana offenses.
Also in today’s memo, the AG has further directed all municipal prosecutors throughout the state to seek adjournments of their pending marijuana cases until after September 4, 2018.
This means that all open marijuana cases in the state’s municipal courts will be postponed until the attorney general’s directive is issued and could effectively amount to a moratorium of, or a substantial reduction in, marijuana convictions in New Jersey between now and future legalization.
“This is a huge win for Jersey City, the state of NJ, and most importantly the people who would have been impacted by the creation of a criminal record due to a simple marijuana arrest,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.
“We are excited that Attorney General Grewal and Jersey City found common ground, avoiding the collateral consequences of convictions for marijuana possession while our great state is on the cusp of legalization.”
One day after the City of Jersey City had enacted a policy to decriminalize marijuana, Grewal sent a letter to Chief Municipal Prosecutor Jake Hudnut stating that he did not have the legal authority to take such an action, therefore the policy was “void.”
However, Grewal’s office met with Hudnut and other public safety officials from Jersey City yesterday in hopes of finding some middle ground.
As a result, beyond the aforementioned memo, the state AG’s office will convene a working group of criminal justice stakeholders this summer, including Hudnut, to study this issue and advise the AG on statewide solutions that achieve the same aims of decriminalization – in accordance with existing state law and court rules.
“I took the job as Chief Prosecutor in Jersey City to help build a progressive, proactive, and thoughtful prosecutors office. We want to make sure that Jersey City is at the forefront of these conversations and I’m proud to have pushed this issue from the onset,” Hudnut said.
Furthermore, the directive will provide guidance on the appropriate circumstances warranting downgrade to local ordinance or outright dismissal of marijuana cases statewide.
The aim of this directive will be to mitigate or eliminate the likelihood of disorderly person misdemeanor convictions for simple possession of marijuana while New Jersey is on the verge of legalization of marijuana, as well as the collateral consequences that come with those convictions.
Collateral consequences include driver’s license suspension, criminal records, loss of student financial aid, bans from public housing, adverse effects on employment opportunities, and loss of immigration status.