According to NJ.com, police in New Jersey have arrested more than 6,000 people for minor cannabis possession since November’s election—an election where 2.7 million New Jersey voters went to the ballots in support of legalizing cannabis. According to a report from the state judiciary, 2,378 people were arrested for cannabis possession of 50 grams or less in January alone.
Some have claimed that Jersey residents who voted for legalization are under the impression legalization has already happened. Similar claims were made in Baltimore back in 2014, in the period between decriminalization being approved and going into effect. And again, these claims were made in 2019 after Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced her office would no longer prosecute cannabis possession charges, regardless of the amount an arrestee had in their possession.
Just as likely however, is that police officers are intent to continue policing cannabis until legislation goes into effect. Indeed, The Outlaw Report observed ongoing drug warrior-like tactics in Virginia in the months before decriminalization took effect, so this is not unprecedented, though it is disturbing. Marijuana Moment reported on this phenomenon in Jersey back in January, noting that cannabis arrest numbers had mostly gone unchanged between January 2020 and January 2021.
“I think the confusion—the dangerous confusion—isn’t among consumers,” NORML’s Chris Goldstein told NJ.com. “I think there’s a dangerous confusion among the police and prosecutors out there. The problem is police are still enforcing prohibition. I think they need a clearer directive.”