NJ attorney general: Jersey City cannot decriminalize pot

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JERSEY CITY -

New Jersey’s attorney general is taking issue with the recent decision by Jersey City officials to decriminalize marijuana possession.

The ordinance, which went into effect Thursday, called for Jersey City residents caught with small amounts of marijuana to receive a fine or possibly community service instead of a criminal conviction.

But Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says that municipal prosecutors do not have the legal authority to make that call.

RELATED: Jersey City becomes first city in NJ to decriminalize marijuana

In a letter to Municipal Prosecutor Jake Hudnut, Grewal says that Hudnut has no right to refuse criminal prosecution on all marijuana-related offenses. Grewal says that the new policy is “void and has no effect.”

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop responded to the letter on Twitter.

“The letter is concerning,” he tweeted. “After all the rhetoric in Trenton surrounding racial/social injustices, it’s baffling why anyone would push rules that are counter to everything they have previously stated publicly.”

Fulop also tweeted that Jersey City was on the “right side” with its decision to decriminalize marijuana possession.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has stated that the legalization of recreational marijuana is a priority of his administration. However plans to legalize have not moved forward much since Murphy took office. Several state lawmakers have even come out against legalization.

RELATED: New Jersey looking to add 6 medical marijuana dispensaries
RELATED: 
Public forum centers on NJ marijuana legalization

Grewal did state in his letter that he and Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez “are deeply committed to promoting criminal justice reform and addressing social issues” in New Jersey.

Grewal said that it was “disappointing” that Hudnut did not consult him or Suarez about the plan.

But Hudnut says that he did reach out to Suarez about the issue.

"The mayor nominated me to this position in June. Once I was confirmed I reached out to the county prosecutor...we exchanged pleasantries and I asked to meet with her. When I did not hear back, I did give the county prosecutor a personal heads up a day before the policy went out," says Hudnut.

Hudnut says that he did not notify Grewal because he was following the chain of command.

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