"We are on the forefront of this issue because we are attorneys sworn to represent the state and we see who we are prosecuting," said Jon-Henry Barr, president of the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association. "We hope that by coming out in favor of decriminalization that we can further the discussion that exists that we need a new approach to this issue because the status quo is no longer working."
Made up of 150 prosecutors, the association's board of ten trustees voted to endorse legalizing the possession of marijuana on February 21 with only two board members opposing and one abstaining.
"We have found that having police officers taken out of their patrol cars and off the streets to testify in court for hours on end for pot possession is a waste of time, manpower and resources," Barr told Mainstreet.The association's support comes on the heels of Democratic Senator Nicholas Scutari's marijuana bill that was introduced to the New Jersey legislature in March.
"Many in law enforcement have been supportive of cannabis reform in private but this public announcement is a very significant development," said Michael Chazukow, outreach director with National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in New Jersey.
Scutari's bill would legalize the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana, set up an agency to oversee the industry and funnel the sales tax revenue to the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund, drug prevention and enforcement efforts and women's health programs.
"The decriminalization of cannabis would allow police and prosecutors like me to focus more attention on victim oriented crimes rather than victimless crimes and generate revenue for the state tax coffers rather than for drug dealers," said Barr who is a municipal prosecutor in Clark Township and Kenilworth Borough when court is in session. "It would also likely inhibit access to minors. Right now, it's easier for teens to get a joint than a bottle of booze because alcohol is regulated."