New Jersey marijuana arrests jumped 10 percent in 2012 and 2013 even as nationwide arrests for pot possession continue to drop.
According to the latest New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports, which compiles arrest figures, 24,765 arrests, the highest number in 20 years, were made in New Jersey for possessing small amounts of marijuana in 2013, Philly.com stated, adding that the numbers were highlighted during a state Senate Committee hearing on pot legalization last week.
Udi Ofer, executive director of the state's ACLU chapter, testified at the hearing that the increase in arrests is a cause for concern, Philly.com said. “[The uptick] coincides with a governor who has taken an incredibly harsh tone on marijuana use. … If [Gov. Chris Christie] were to become president, he would arrest people in Colorado or Washington or other states that legalize marijuana, and that sets a tone and trickles down to law enforcement."
In an email, Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman, questioned any link between the arrest numbers and Christie's marijuana stance, calling it a "harebrained theory," Philly.com reported, adding thatChristie has said he would veto any bill that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use because he said he is concerned that marijuana could cause addiction problems and may fall into the hands of children.
The most significant support for marijuana legalization came from the Senate president and anticipated gubernatorial candidate Stephen Sweeney, who was quoted in a related NJ.com report. "I am receptive to the proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana in New Jersey, but I believe we should learn more about how this is working in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska before making any final decisions,” he said.
Jon Gettman, a Shenandoah University professor who has studied marijuana policy issues and has analyzed FBI and other statistics, said the national decline in pot arrests began in 2007, Philly.com stated, adding that 33 states, including Pennsylvania, have seen a decrease since then, with decriminalization being the main reason for the lower number of arrests.
Currently, New Jersey residents face up to six months imprisonment and more than $1,000 in fines for a first-time arrest on a charge of simple possession of 50 grams or less, according to Philly.com.