A municipal prosecutor in New Jersey is arguing in a memo sent to colleagues across the state that voters’ approval of a marijuana legalization referendum this month, and subsequent guidance from the attorney general, means that many current cannabis cases should not be pursued.
In a two-page message to other top law enforcement officials that was shared with Marijuana Moment, Jon-Henry Barr, the municipal prosecutor for the Township of Clark, said that he appreciated that state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) released guidance stipulating that police and prosecutors “should exercise discretion” in pursuing marijuana cases.
But voters made clear on Election Day that they no longer want to see adults 21 and older to be convicted for simple possession, he said, and they also lack control over lawmakers’ timeline for passing enabling legislation that would codify that policy statewide.
“New Jersey’s municipal prosecutors can look to the text of the State Constitution and interpretive caselaw for more guidance about what should be done with pending cases,” Barr, who is a past president of the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutor’s Association and is a member of the pro-reform group Law Enforcement Action Partnership, wrote. “The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”
The attorney general’s reminder that prosecutors have discretion in cannabis cases is important, but it still leaves questions about how exactly they should proceed in the interim while lawmakers work on implementing regulations for a legal marijuana market, he said.