Jersey City can't decriminalize marijuana, NJ attorney general says

New Jersey's attorney general told Jersey City on Friday that it doesn't have the power to decriminalize marijuana, a...

Posted: Jul 22, 2018 11:57 AM
Updated: Jul 22, 2018 11:57 AM

New Jersey's attorney general told Jersey City on Friday that it doesn't have the power to decriminalize marijuana, a day after the municipality said it would downgrade possession of the drug to a misdemeanor.

A letter from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to chief Jersey City Prosecutor Jake Hudnut told the city's chief prosecutor that he doesn't have the legal authority to do so, but Hudnut said the despite the missive from Trenton, the decree to decriminalize marijuana will remain in place.

The letter starts by saying the AG's office "takes no position" on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana as a matter of policy.

"Rather, I write to advise that, as a municipal prosecutor, you do not have the legal authority to decriminalize marijuana or otherwise refuse to criminally prosecute all marijuana-related offenses in the municipal courts of Jersey City," Grewal writes. "Accordingly, I am instructing you that your memorandum of void and has no effect."

He said it was "disappointing" that the decree was issued without Jersey City having consulted him or Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez. To read the full letter, click here.

Leaders in Jersey City celebrated Thursday as they announced the decriminalization of marijuana within city limits, the first move of its kind in the Garden State.

Under the decree, marijuana possession would have been downgraded to a misdemeanor and causing a public nuisance with marijuana possession - such as smoking in a public park near children - would no longer saddle users with a criminal record. Instead, the offense would carry a $50 fine or five hours of community service, whereas before jail time was a possible punishment.

At the time, Mayor Steven Fulop said decriminalizing cannabis was a way to correct the "severe inequalities that negatively impact people of color disproportionately and lead to long-term economic challenges for anyone who finds themselves prosecuted for possession."

Fulop on Friday said Jersey City "respects the letter but (doesn't) agree" that the municipality doesn't have the power to decriminalize the substance.

In a statement, the city said:

"The letter is concerning after all the rhetoric in Trenton surrounding racial and social injustices, it's baffling why Trenton would try and enforce rules that are counter to everything they have previously stated publicly. We respect the letter received but we also feel comfortable and support the Jersey City Chief Prosecutor's decision to continue to follow this change for Jersey City residents.

"We know that court rules gives prosecutor the discretion to amend or dismiss charges as they see fit and decriminalization is the right thing to do as we shouldn't continue a policy of creating records and ruining a person's future over small quantities of marijuana."

Grewal wrote that Jersey City's move violates state criminal law and directed Hudnut to "prosecute all offenses within your jurisdiction in accordance with your statutory duties as a municipal prosecutor."

Hudnut told PIX11 News that it's "no longer fair to saddle people with misdmeanor convictions for something that will arguably be legal very soon."

"What I say right now is that if you are arrested for marijuana and you haven't been causing a public nuisance or any public safety issue, there's a very, very strong likelihood that you are going to leave municipal court without a misdemeanor conviction," Hudnut said. "That's how the policy was yesterday and that's how we're handling it going forward."

An estimated 25,000 people in the Garden State are arrested every year for illegal recreational marijuana possession, which costs the justice system about $1 billion to deal with annually, including jailing, policing and court proceedings.

Across the river in New York City, the majority of New Yorkers found smoking marijuana in public will receive a summons instead of being arrested. Police will shift their enforcement of marijuana laws by Sept. 1 in a change that will help reduce marijuana arrests by about 10,000 per year in the five boroughs.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 468498

Reported Deaths: 9100
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison31907468
Hinds30552569
DeSoto29532342
Jackson22868335
Rankin21016355
Lee14393214
Madison13961263
Jones13053215
Forrest12879231
Lauderdale11244292
Lowndes10148171
Lamar9972122
Pearl River8569208
Lafayette8008136
Hancock7110107
Oktibbeha6764117
Washington6756146
Neshoba6350200
Monroe6304156
Warren6267159
Panola6036122
Pontotoc599292
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Marshall5917115
Union558885
Pike5424133
Lincoln5192127
Alcorn509388
George454766
Scott447392
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Tippah431780
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Copiah423883
Simpson4238108
Wayne419663
Tate418999
Adams4174109
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Covington404891
Marion399699
Leake389784
Coahoma385996
Newton360273
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Stone342657
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Attala318285
Jasper308261
Winston298191
Clay282672
Chickasaw277464
Clarke271784
Holmes257685
Calhoun256939
Smith241546
Yalobusha215447
Tallahatchie213849
Walthall203457
Lawrence202431
Greene202045
Perry195053
Amite191251
Webster191141
Noxubee173437
Montgomery168652
Jefferson Davis164041
Carroll158936
Tunica146533
Benton137531
Kemper136538
Claiborne124134
Choctaw123824
Humphreys122036
Franklin114127
Quitman100925
Wilkinson98335
Jefferson85832
Sharkey61620
Issaquena1916
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 757893

Reported Deaths: 12784
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1082301712
Mobile694251158
Madison47738562
Baldwin35347420
Shelby34758281
Tuscaloosa32576495
Montgomery32249645
Lee21576200
Calhoun19621363
Morgan19061307
Etowah18363413
Marshall17028252
Houston15881337
St. Clair14724270
Limestone13908178
Elmore13812239
Cullman13756228
Lauderdale12909263
Talladega12124200
DeKalb11705220
Walker10047303
Autauga9371119
Blount9272146
Jackson8970132
Coffee8550150
Colbert8229160
Dale8162142
Escambia632298
Tallapoosa6255165
Covington6214153
Chilton6152128
Russell586753
Franklin558292
Chambers5155127
Dallas4569173
Marion4490114
Clarke447070
Pike439188
Geneva415999
Lawrence4002101
Winston399982
Bibb388975
Barbour334667
Marengo317778
Monroe306844
Butler305878
Pickens296166
Henry288550
Randolph288255
Hale282981
Cherokee275649
Fayette268569
Washington241844
Crenshaw226962
Clay219260
Macon211154
Cleburne205746
Lamar184638
Conecuh173337
Lowndes167856
Coosa160031
Wilcox153033
Bullock145642
Perry132430
Sumter122635
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