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Angelini: Decriminalizing Marijuana Sends Wrong Message

Do you think decriminalizing marijuana sends the wrong message to children? Weigh in on our Patch poll.

Monmouth County Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R) thinks the debate to decriminalize marijuana should land on the side of the current law.

A bill was introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) in May and passed by the assembly on Monday. It calls for the decriminalization of the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana, imposes civil penalties, and establishes a fund for drug education.

The bill downgrades possession 15 grams or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to an offense carrying a civil fine only. The bill states that there would be a $150 fine for a first violation, a $200 fine for a second violation, and a $500 fine for a third or subsequent violation, except in cases of "extreme financial hardship."

The bill, labeled A-1465, also specifies that "a person who possesses drug paraphernalia for the personal use of 15 grams or less of marijuana would not be guilty of a criminal violation but instead would be subject to a $100 civil penalty."

Angelini said in a news release that decriminalizing marijuana in any way would send the wrong message to children in New Jersey.

“When Governor Corzine and this Legislature approved a medical marijuana law in 2010, I said it was the first step toward legalizing marijuana," Angelini said. "I did not know the next leap would happen this quickly."

Monmouth County Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande are on board with the bill as its co-sponsors.

But Angelini said it is a step in the wrong direction. 

“Two years ago, the message to children was that marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, can be medicine for some. Today, the Assembly expanded upon that message, saying it’s OK to smoke it," she said.

O'Scanlon introduced amendments to the bill on the floor in May, including forwarding $50 to a Drug Education Fund in each municipality and the authorization of each court to order drug assessment of adults who have committed three or more offenses, to determine whether or not they would benefit from drug treatment.

“Decriminalizing this dangerous substance sends the wrong message to children and tells them that their physical health, mental well-being and daily work and social functions don’t matter," Angelini said. “There is a reason this controlled dangerous substance is illegal under state and federal law and should stay that way.”

Angelini is the executive director of Prevention First of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, an substance abuse education program.

A separate bill, introduced to the Senate by Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) just days after the assembly bill in May, calls for the decriminilization of the possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana. No amendments or floor discussions have been publicized for that bill yet.

joe June 26, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Yeah, but alcohol sends the right message? Idiots.
Gustavo Picciuto June 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM
“Decriminalizing this dangerous substance sends the wrong message to children and tells them that their physical health, mental well-being and daily work and social functions don’t matter," Angelini said. “There is a reason this controlled dangerous substance is illegal under state and federal law and should stay that way.” Where to begin...First of all it's only dangerous because it is in the hands of dangerous people because of prohibition. Marijuana itself has never claimed a life in recorded history and it's potential for abuse is around 9%, relatively low compared to alcohol in the 20's and even caffeine at 11-13%; your more likely to become addicted to a macciato than to Marijuana. Second, I don't know who told you that's what the kids are getting because it's not or it shouldn't be in any case. We need to tell our kids the truth about what's going on and they will understand; if you raised them right they will anyway. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and they will understand that prohibition is causing more harm than good, they will eventually lead the way to a new system, hopefully one that works. Oh and by the way you don't "control" this "dangerous" substance; cartels and gangs do and it's only illegal because of a few die-hard prohibitionist that wouldn't know the truth if God himself spoke it to them.
Gustavo Picciuto June 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM
The real "message" we should be concerned about is why do our leaders lie to us; Marijuana is classified as having NO medical value yet there is an approved version of THC by the F.D.A. (Marinol; which was created by mimicking the Marijuana plant so in essence it had value in that case because if it wouldn't exists they couldn't have created the synthetic version; ergo it has value) and the government has been giving actual Marijuana to patients for years (most famously Rosenfeld). That hypocrisy and the lack of attention to facts and science should the real message to be concerned about.
Ken Wolski June 27, 2012 at 02:39 AM
The Assembly agreed yesterday that it makes no sense for NJ to continue to criminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Logically, it makes no sense when far more dangerous and addicting substances are not criminalized. Financially, it is a drain on scarce resources when far more damaging crimes should be pursued. Morally, it is repugnant that the majority of victims of this policy are racial minorities. The opponents of A1465 fear some message they imagine is being sent to children. This is the last refuge of someone who has run out of cogent arguments. Of far more concern is telling the truth to children. Marijuana prohibition rests on a lie. The lie is that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, with no accepted medical uses in the U.S., and is unsafe for use even under medical supervision. As a Schedule I drug it is in the same class with heroin, a powerfully addictive and potentially deadly drug. Yet marijuana is about as addictive as caffeine and has never killed anyone. To put marijuana in the same class with heroin is absurd. This exaggeration of the dangers of marijuana and denial of its medical benefits is a lie, pure and simple. It is a Big Lie because it is told over and over again, most compellingly by our government, which ignores and suppresses scientific evidence to the contrary. This Big Lie is the basis for the current draconian and ineffective penalties. It is an appalling lie to tell anyone, let alone children.
Adam June 27, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Never trust the government. Ever. They have no concept of reality or righteousness.
Jersey Teapot-Party June 27, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Get caught with a joint in NJ you can do 6 mos and have a record that makes you unqualified to clean toilets. Don't get caught or have $$/connections to beat the charge you can become president like the last three. Drug laws are just another way to keep minorities and the poor in the hole. Laws that Angelini supports are racist, and they don't keep our kids safe! It easier for our kids to get cannibas than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco! Parents (especially controlling republican parents) need to start taking accountability in raising their kids and stop blaming it on the government or somebody else. People like Mary Pat Angelini (R) don't believe in Liberty and Freedom they believe in control and denying rights to other Americans. They claim to support small limited government, but when it comes to pot smokers they have no problem arguing for big controlling government just like Russia. I hope these fascists get voted out over this issue.
Robert Platshorn June 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Kids will try anything they believe won't kill them. The ones who smoke pot don't vomit on their shoes or drive cars full of family members into telephone poles. They become graduate students, scientists, engineers, doctors and presidents. Greatest danger ..... pizza overdose! Before it was banned, marijuana was the American doctors first choice treatment for over a hundred ailments.
Jeff a June 27, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Mary Pat Angelini, let's talk about how Prevention First gets taxpayer dollars to maintain prohibition? You're getting rich personally over these laws stay the way they are.
Mary Hazel June 27, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I don't think we are focusing on the right issue by worrying about "the children". Kids know what their parents teach them. The politicians are preying on the fear of parents instead of focusing energy on the real problem: prescription drug abuse and under-age drinking to excess. Anything can be abused, just look at bath salts. If I choose to smoke a joint in the privacy of my own home instead of drinking a glass of wine, that should be my choice.
Victor Olefson June 27, 2012 at 04:50 PM
The 'laws' should never be about 'sending a message'-leave that for the pulpit or social media. I am libertarian enough to believe ALL drug laws exist only to support the needs of The State to control and profit from our activities. Punish anyone who commits a crime against people or property, not on what they choose to ingest in their bodies!
Doug Newman June 27, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I grew up in Fair Haven and live in Colorado now. Glad to see we have a bunch of LIBERTARIANS commenting here!!! Very cool! Cut and paste this URL into your browser bar about Eric Hafner of Fair Haven: http://ow.ly/bSeCN “I’m Not Going to Plead Guilty to Using My Medicine.”
Jersey Teapot-Party June 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM
libertarians are the fastest growing party in the US. notice the libertarian in the video http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/05/bill_to_decriminalize_marijuan_1.html

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