New Jersey suspends marijuana cases in court in potential step toward legalization

New Jersey suspends marijuana cases in court in potential step toward legalization
© Getty Images

New Jersey is suspending all marijuana cases in state municipal courts until at least September, a potential move toward the drug's legalization. 

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) made the announcement in a letter to prosecutors, according to NJ.com. In it, Grewal asks that "all municipal prosecutors in New Jersey seek an adjournment until September 4, 2018, or later, of any matter involving a marijuana-related offense pending in municipal court."

ADVERTISEMENT

Sharon Lauchaire, a spokeswoman in the attorney general's office, told the news outlet that the letter does not order police to stop making arrests related to pot. 

The announcement comes as the New Jersey legislature debates a recreational marijuana bill introduced by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D).

A source in New Jersey's state Senate told NJ.com that a bill legalizing adult-use weed is expected to reach the Senate for consideration by September. 

If the Senate bill passes, the combination of the recent actions could put an end to the prosecution of marijuana possession in New Jersey. New Jersey currently has the second-highest marijuana arrest rate in the country, according to NJ.com. 

The news comes as many states around the nation explore supportive policies for marijuana. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in another 29. 

The bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey has faced opposition, though. 

State Sen. Ronald Rice (D) told NJTV last week that he believes marijuana is a gateway drug, adding that when recreational marijuana is legalized, “the number of people who’ve never used any type of drugs goes up substantially in terms of drug use.”