Jersey City made headlines as the first city in New Jersey to decriminalize marijuana. Yet within hours, New Jersey’s Attorney General said the city had no authority to do so.
In a letter sent Friday, July 20, 2018, to Jersey City Chief Municipal Prosecutor Jacob Hudnut, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal informed him that “you do not have the legal authority to decriminalize marijuana,” further instructing Hudnut that “your memorandum is void and has no effect.”
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Hudnut directed the city’s prosecutors to “use their discretion in deciding which cases to pursue” in an attempt to end criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession, according to NJTV News.
“We feel that while New Jersey is having the conversation about legalization, it is unfair to continue to burden people with misdemeanors, what New Jersey calls disorderly persons offense, convictions and the collateral consequences that come with those convictions,” Hudnut told NJTV News. “We’re adding our voice to the conversation in New Jersey.”
Grewal silenced Jersey City’s voice by writing that the municipal prosecutor’s’ duties are “to ensure the uniform and proper administration of justice in this State,” adding that the city’s memorandum violated state law. The attorney general added that policies regarding criminal law are enacted by the Senate and General Assembly and “not determined by municipal prosecutors based on ‘[r]ecent public opinion polling.’”
Grewal made it clear that Hudnut was subject to his supervisory authority as the attorney general, directed that the New Marijuana Decriminalization Policy was void and that Hudnut’s office was to “prosecute all offenses within your jurisdiction.”
Fulop tweeted his support of Hudnut’s policy change, calling Grewal’s position “baffling.”
2/3 comfortable and support the Jersey City Chief Prosecutor @JakeHudnut decision to continue to follow this change for Jersey City residents. We know that court rules gives prosecutor the discretion to cont
— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) July 20, 2018
Fulop further tweeted that he and Hudnut “respect the letter, but don’t agree.”