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NJ lawmakers propose decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana instead of legalization

TRENTON, N.J. — A bipartisan group of New Jersey lawmakers is urging caution on marijuana legalization and instead introduced legislation decriminalizing small amounts of the drug.

Democratic state senators Ronald Rice and Joseph Cryan and Republican Sen. Robert Singer unveiled the legislation at a statehouse news conference Thursday.

Under the bill, residents could possess up to 10 grams or less of marijuana. The measure also eliminates penalties for being under the influence of marijuana.

The sponsors want to reduce the number of people who face criminal prosecution over small amounts of the drug. Rice cast the measure as a civil rights concern.

Scott Rudder, the president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association, supports full recreational legalization. He says the bill would unintentionally prop up the black market and help illegal drug dealers

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy pledged to legalize marijuana in the state. He’s said it could bring in about $300 million in new revenue to New Jersey, which already has a medical marijuana program.

A bill to legalize recreational marijuana us currently pending in the state senate. Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced the measure in January.

It would allow those who are 21 and older to have up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solids, 72 ounces in liquid form, 7 grams of concentrate and up to six immature plants. The legislation also would establish a sales tax on marijuana and establish a Division of Marijuana Enforcement.