nicholas scutari

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New Jersey: Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Set To Be Unveiled


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A New Jersey lawmaker will unveil legislation on Monday that would legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana in the state.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) plans to formally announce the Democratic-sponsored measure at a noon news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton.

If the bill becomes law, New Jersey will be the ninth state to legalize adult-use, recreational marijuana, joining Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

"The national trend is toward legalization," Scutari told NJ Advance Media on Friday. "It's absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway."

The bill will need to be passed by both houses of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and signed by the governor to be enacted.

Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, strongly opposes marijuana, arguing that it's a "gateway drug" that can lead users to try harder substances.

Earlier this month, he said that Democrats who want to pass such legislation are willing to "poison our kids" to receive "blood money" from the tax money it will bring in.

"This is beyond stupidity," he said during a speech in Princeton.

New Jersey: Scutari Pushes For Marijuana Legalization Despite Resistance From Governor Christie

New Jersey marijuana.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22) has just returned from a trip to Colorado where he toured the state's dispensaries and consulted with state officials on the rollout of their legalization effort. He hopes to get New Jersey to follow in that state's footsteps despite resistance from Governor Chris Christie on the issue.

Scutari spoke at a State House press conference, saying that he expects he will be able to draft a comprehensive bill and rally support for the measure before the end of this session. He said that he has been in touch with certain of the Democratic frontrunners in the race to succeed Christie in 2017.

“You’re going to have a new administration next year,” Scutari said. “And we’re going to see which one and what they’re going to do with it. I know that Mr. Murphy has already indicated publicly that he would sign a legalization. I know that no one has talked negatively about it."

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) have said they would consider legalization while Jersey City Steve Fulop has not taken a position.

New Jersey: Senate To Hold First-Ever Hearing On Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients


New Legislation Clarifies Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act Patient Protections

Advocates Applaud Legislation and Declare that Legislature Did Not Intend For Patients To Lose Jobs For Using Legal Medical Marijuana

The New Jersey Legislature is poised to hold the first-ever hearing on legislation clarifying employment protections for medical marijuana patients. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing is scheduled for Monday, December 21 at 1 p.m., in the New Jersey State House Annex Committee Room 1.

The legislation, Senate Bill 3162, is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari (DMiddlesex/Somerset/Union) and Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex).

Advocates applaud the bill. “Medical marijuana patients in New Jersey are in a state of limbo and fear,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “They fear being fired from their jobs for using medical marijuana even though it is legal under New Jersey law. No individual and no family should be punished for following their doctor’s order and the laws of their state.”

New Jersey: Legislature To Hold First-Ever Hearing On Marijuana Legalization


More Than 20,000 People Are Arrested for Marijuana Possession in New Jersey Every Year

Advocates Applaud Hearing and Call for Common-Sense and Popular Marijuana Reform

The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, November 16 will hold the first-ever hearing on marijuana legalization in New Jersey.

The committee will hear invited testimony on how New Jersey could legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol for adults and how this has worked in the other states that have legalized marijuana. Senator Nicholas Scutari, chair of the committee, has also introduced legislation to legalize marijuana.

“The Drug Policy Alliance supports taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults and thanks the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for taking testimony on this issue," said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "The criminalization of marijuana is costly, unfair and compromises public safety.

"New Jersey wastes more than $125 million dollars a year arresting people for marijuana possession," Scotti said. "This absurd policy criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens and wastes law enforcement resources that would be better spent on serious public safety issues.”

New Jersey: New Poll Finds Majority Support For Legalizing Marijuana


Findings Mirror Growing Support for Legalization Across the Country

Advocates Say That Taxing and Regulating Marijuana Reduce Injustices of Marijuana Arrests and Generate Millions of Dollars in Tax Revenue for Projects to Benefit All New Jerseyans

A significant majority of New Jerseyans expressed for support for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana in a Rutgers-Eagleton poll. The poll was conducted in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance.

The poll found that 58 percent of New Jersey residents support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults 21 and over. Those surveyed were most persuaded to support marijuana legalization and regulation as a result of New Jersey’s costly marijuana laws.

New Jersey wastes more than $125 million a year arresting people for marijuana possession. This absurd policy criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens and wastes law enforcement resources that would be better spent on serious crime and public safety issues.

"Support for legalization in New Jersey is growing, which mirrors national polls,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. "By asking a question that makes clear legalization for adults 21 and over would come with taxes and regulation, we provided context that may account for some of the 9-point jump in support from our April 2014 poll.

New Jersey: Residents More Supportive Of Marijuana Decriminalization Than Ever Before


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Support among New Jersey residents for decriminalizing marijuana is higher than ever before, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released on Tuesday.

An overwhelming majority, about 66 percent, of residents believe penalties for marijuana use should be reduced, according to the poll. That number is up from 58 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 1972, reports Andrew George at NJ Biz. Sixty-five percent said penalties should be eliminated altogether.

Twenty-nine percent of residents said they oppose marijuana decrim.

Outright legalization of marijuana is supported by 49 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

Back in 1972, just 34 percent of adults wanted to get rid of penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, while 56 percent did not, reports Matt Friedman at The Star-Ledger.

The poll comes about a month after state Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in New Jersey.

New Jersey: Gov. Christie Says He Opposes Bill To Legalize Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday emphasized that he is against any effort to legalize marijuana in the state, weeks after a state senator introduced a bill that would make sale and possession of cannabis legal.

"I'm not going to do that on my watch," the GOP governor told a crowd of about 500 at Winston Churchill Elementary School, reports Brent Johnson at The Star-Ledger. "I'm just not. I don't think it's the right thing to do for our state."

State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) last month introduced a bill that would regulate the cultivation, possession and sale of recreational marijuana, providing new tax revenue for the state.

"It's time to update our archaic drug laws and get real about the detrimental effects they are having on the lives of residents in New Jersey," Scutari said.

A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released on Wednesday showed that nearly 60 percent of New Jersey adults believe alcohol and tobacco are more risky than marijuana. But residents are still split on whether to legalize, with 48 percent in favor of allowing adults to buy small amounts, and 47 percent opposed.

Christie, who has his eye on the White House in 2016, has long said he is against relaxing the marijuana laws because that would "the wrong message" to kids.

New Jersey: Prosecutors Endorse Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced In Legislature


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) has introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana in New Jersey, creating a taxed and regulated system of distribution like the one in Colorado. The bill on Monday was endorsed by the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association, the president of which called it "silly" to spend money on marijuana cases.

The 7-2 vote, by the prosecutor's association's board of trustees, produced such high emotions that some prosecutors quit the association upon learning the results, according to the association's President Jon-Henry Barr, reports Susan K. Livio at The Star-Ledger.

"This is something a lot of prosecutors have been thinking but never talked about," Barr said. "I have spent hours and hours litigating the issue of suppression motions because usually the police will retrieve marijuana without a search warrant, and at the end of the day, it is all over a joint. It's just collectively brought me and so many prosecutors to the point where this is silly."

"We are spending too much time and getting not enough results when it comes to prosecuting small amounts of marijuana," Barr said, reports CBS New York's Marla Diamond.

New Jersey: State Senator Announces Plans to Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bill


Public Opinion, Wasted Tax Dollars and Racially Discriminatory Arrests Push Legislators to Fix Broken Marijuana Policies

New Jersey State Senator Nicholas P. Scutari on Friday announced plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana. Details of the proposal are pending but the senator envisions an industry that taxes and regulates marijuana like alcohol.

A 2013 poll by Lake Research Partners found that 59 percent of New Jersey voters support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana. Recent national polls show similar support.

New Jersey’s current marijuana policies are widely recognized as broken. “Anybody that looks at the facts, knows that the war on marijuana has been a miserable failure,’’ said Senator Scutari. “We spend billions of dollars on enforcement…this [pointing to the Colorado model] is the direction that the state should go in.”

New Jersey’s current marijuana laws are unfair, unpopular and wasteful, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. “More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of the DPA.

“This is a waste of law enforcement resources and taxpayer money," Scotti said. "And a marijuana conviction can have tragic long-term consequences for individuals. People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record.

New Jersey: Poll Finds 61% of Voters Favor Marijuana Decriminalization


Solid Majority Also Now Supports Legalizing, Taxing and Regulating Marijuana for Personal Use

Overwhelming Public Support Adds Momentum to Pending Senate Bill that Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An overwhelming majority of New Jersey voters support reducing the penalty for simple marijuana possession from a criminal offense to a small fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a new poll of likely voters by Lake Research Partners. The poll was commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The poll found that 61 percent of those asked support a proposal to make possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a civil violation. Currently, possession of this amount is a criminal offense that carries a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. A conviction also results in a criminal record that cannot be expunged for at least five years.

The poll also found that support for decriminalization is broad-based, traversing North, Central and South Jersey, and that it bridges gender, race and partisan divides. An overwhelming 82 percent of those polled said that they would either be more likely to vote for an elected official who supported reducing penalties for marijuana possession or that it would make no difference in their vote.

New Jersey: Lawmakers Want To Keep Marijuana Patients From Being Kicked Off Organ Transplant Lists

(Photo: Think Progress Health)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would ensure that medical marijuana patients' use of cannabis would not prevent them from getting needed medical care such as organ transplants was approved Tuesday by a New Jersey state Senate committee.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee took action to prevent patients from getting kicked off transplant lists due to their physician-authorized medicinal cannabis use, reports Sy Mukerjee at Think Progress.

The panel passed S-1220, sponsored by New Jersey state Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Nicholas P. Scutari. The legislation "would provide that a registered, qualifying patient's authorized use of medical marijuana would be considered equivalent to using other prescribed medication rather than an illicit substance and therefore would not qualify the person from needed medical care, such as an organ transplant."

"We are hearing of cases in other states of sick and dying patients being kicked off organ transplant waiting lists for their legal use of medical marijuana," said Sen. Vitale (D-Middlesex), who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee. "This practice is unconscionable as the patients have followed their doctors' orders and have taken a legal medication to reduce the pain and suffering associated with their illness.

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