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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: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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