Yesterday, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez met with officials from Jersey City to discuss last week’s memorandum issued by the city’s Chief Municipal Prosecutor purporting to decriminalize marijuana. During that meeting, the Attorney General made clear that Jersey City’s decriminalization memorandum was an improper exercise of a municipal prosecutor’s authority and reiterated that it was void.
The Attorney General also expressed his concern that Jersey City had acted without consulting state and county law enforcement officials before issuing the memorandum. He was particularly concerned that the rushed issuance of the memorandum – which placed officers in a position of enforcing valid laws that some may mistakenly believe had been rescinded – could undermine the community trust that law enforcement officers in Jersey City and elsewhere have worked so hard to build and could jeopardize officer safety.
At the conclusion of yesterday’s meeting, the Attorney General stated that he wanted to work with criminal justice stakeholders – including County Prosecutor Suarez and the Jersey City Chief Municipal Prosecutor – to clarify the scope and appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion in marijuana-related offenses in municipal court. The Attorney General decided to convene a working group that would study these issues and advise him on a statewide directive that he would issue in August and that would provide clarification about municipal prosecutors’ authority in these cases. He also agreed to ask that municipal prosecutors statewide adjourn all marijuana-related offenses in municipal court until September 4, 2018, in order to provide time to develop the guidance. During yesterday’s meeting, the Attorney General did not commit to the final outcome of the working group or the content of the forthcoming directive. The Attorney General also reiterated that municipal prosecutors do not have the authority to unilaterally decriminalize marijuana-related offenses.
This morning, the Office of the Mayor of Jersey City issued a press release that did not accurately describe yesterday’s meeting and made it appear as if the Attorney General had already agreed to the outcome of the working group and the content of the directive. The Mayor of Jersey City did not participate in yesterday’s meeting and the Attorney General regrets the inaccuracy of the city’s press statements. The Attorney General remains deeply committed to social justice issues and looks forward to working with other criminal justice stakeholders as the state examines over the coming month the appropriate scope of municipal prosecutors’ discretion in marijuana-related cases.
As with all policy initiatives he has spearheaded during his tenure, the Attorney General believes that the best way to develop progressive solutions is through a collaborative approach that involves multiple stakeholders across law enforcement, civil rights organizations, and community leaders. Later this week, the Attorney General will announce the names of those participating in the working group described today.
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