NJ's First Pro-Marijuana Law Being Pushed in College Town

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    David Sutherland
    Marijuana activists want to lower penalties for weed possession in New Jersey.

    It may not roll off your tongue, but the name for the campaign catches the eye:

    "Petition for a Referendum for a Lowest-Priority Ordinance Mandating Sensible Marijuana Enforcement."

    What?

    "It would enforce jaywalking before marijuana [possession by adults]," explained Rick Cusick, a board member of the New Jersey chapter of NORML.

    New Brunswick is home to the most populous campus of Rutgers University, and by law allows referendums to pass ordinances that a city council might balk at.

    Two reasons why NORML is targetting the town with a petition campaign to put the proposed ordinance on the ballot in November.

    Some 800 signatures are needed, but organizer Evan Nison said they have three to four times that many.

    New Brunswick being a college town, however, the extras are needed because verifying signatures "is a bigger problem than it should be," according to Cusick.

    The campaign has counted on volunteers such as Laura Klobusicky, 19, a Rutgers sophomore originally from Lambertville, and Mike Chazukow, 31, a senior at Ramapo College who lives in Butler.

    They approached fellow students such as Brittany Lisowski, 21, a senior originally from Clifton, N.J.

    Referring to current marijuana laws, Lisowsky said, "I think they're kind of stupid honestly. I don't think it's a big deal."

    That attitude is what NORML hopes to pass on to the police department by making adult marijuana possession a "lowest-priority" crime.

    But how could that be enforced by a police officer who believes marijuana law should be vigorously enforced?

    Organizer Nison pointed out the ordinance requires the police department to issue a report six months after it becomes law, assuming it gets on the ballot and voters approve it this Fall.

    Moreover, police would be required to submit a report to City Council each and every time they make an arrest for any adult marijuana offense, "Indicating that he or she understood this low priority policy and explaining why the arrest or incident occurred despite of it."

    Nison said this is modeled after a similar ordnance in Seattle, where he claimed they have had a "phenomenal" experience.

    But he then confessed, "This is all new territory in New Jersey."

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY