A bill calling for legalizing the possession of up to an ounce marijuana has been endorsed by the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association, which believes the money spent trying these cases is "silly," the association’s president said.
The vote by the association’s board of trustees was called the first of its kind in the nation by the leader of an international group of law enforcement officials seeking the legalization of pot.
The board voted 7-2 with one abstention to support the legislation, which was introduced by one of its members, Linden prosecutor and state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the association’s President Jon-Henry Barr said in an interview Monday.
"This is something a lot of prosecutors have been thinking but never talked about," said Barr, the municipal prosecutor in Kenilworth and Clark. "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."
However, some prosecutors were so troubled by the vote they quit the association, Barr said. He declined to identify them.
The association’s endorsement drew praise from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, an international group of police and corrections officers, prosecutors, and judges that seeks the repeal of marijuana possession laws.
"Things are changing and I think it’s wonderful. Finally prosecutors are making sense," LEAP’s co-founder Jack Cole said, a retired undercover narcotics officer from the State Police. "Think of how this is going to alleviate their job and free up their time."
Usually law enforcement groups oppose legalization bills, he added. "This is the first (endorsement) I have ever heard."
Scutari said he did not ask the prosecutors’ association for the endorsement, but is pleased to get it. "As the...