Dear Editor,

I'm writing to urge members of the public to contact their State Legislators and ask them to support New Jersey State Assembly Bill A4252, which seeks to amend state law so that the adult possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana is reclassified from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-arrestable civil violation punishable by a fine.

This is a fiscally sensible proposal that will better enable police, prosecutors, and the courts to reallocate their existing resources toward activities that will better serve the public. New Jersey performs more arrests for marijuana than for all other drugs combined. In 2009 (the most recent data) 22,439 people were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. These arrests and prosecutions are an unnecessary drain on our state's limited criminal justice resources.

To date, fourteen states -- including Nebraska, Ohio, Maine, and Mississippi -- have enacted similar, non-criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. Passage of these measures has not led to increased marijuana use or altered the public's perceptions regarding the potential harms of drug use. In fact, population surveys show that fewer people in these states, such as Nebraska and Mississippi, use marijuana compared to the national average. Most recently, Connecticut lawmakers — at the urging of the state Governor — enacted legislation virtually identical to A4252. The new law went into effect in July.

Assembly Bill 4252 is a common sense, fiscally responsible proposal that will cut costs without altering the public's attitudes or use of marijuana.

Eric Hafner

Red Bank