We recently polled the members of the NJ Libertarian State Board on the ballot questions. Here are our thoughts.
Question 1: CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA
Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis”?
Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market.
Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.
Your legislators are often easy to contact. They can be contacted via phone, email, or snail mail. If an issue is important enough you may be able to call and ask for an appointment with them to discuss an issue. Several assembly people can be found on social media as well.
The best way I have found to determine your legislative district is to enter your nine digit zip code or address and press Submit below.
In New Jersey if you want to practice hair braiding you need to complete a 1,200 hour cosmetology course where you learn lots of things – except for how to braid hair. The practice of hair braiding requires no chemicals and is perfectly safe. Last year, a mother of four was fined $1,200 for braiding hair without a license. Anita Yeboah can’t afford the up to $17,000 to obtain this license. She faced the prospect of either going on welfare, or starting a business to support her and her four children. As an immigrant from Ghana, she grew up learning to braid hair as part of her culture.
Brigitte Nzali was slapped with a fine for braiding hair from her shop in Blackwood, NJ. She and other hair braiders have joined forces to form the Hair Braiding Freedom Coalition. They have worked to get a bill through the Assembly that would get rid of burdensome licensing requirements.
On August 27th, Governor Phil Murphy heartlessly vetoed their bill. The bill had bi-partisan support in the legislature, but Murphy thought it went too far and wanted hair braiders to have at least 50 hours of training or three years of experience.
Story Updated 8/12 and 8/17 - Correspondence Added
Rutgers has been billing students to support the legislative lobbying group, NJ Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG). Each semester an item is added to each student's bill with the description "NJPIRG". To not pay this fee the student (or the parent paying the bill) needs take action to have this fee removed. Not only is this action unethical, it is also illegal.
State law (18A:62-22) requires that any fee for organizations "which employ legislative agents or attempt to influence legislation" is only authorized by having "the student add the charge to the total amount due." This requires a positive check off for the fee. The law also requires specific language to be included on the bill.
Optional fees shall be accompanied by a statement as to the nature of the item, and that the item is not a charge required to be paid by the student but rather the student may add the charge to the total amount due, and that the item appears on the bill at the request of the student body, and does not necessarily reflect the endorsement of the governing body. - N.J.S.A. 18A:62-22
Rutgers is in violation of the law. They have a negative check off and do not include the required language.
NJPIRG, along with other state PIRG chapters have lobbied public institutions to automatically bill students a fee that is forwarded to the state chapter of PIRG. In my case the fee was $11.20 for the Fall 2015 semester. The fee can be removed - but only if it is noticed and the appropriate boxes are checked when paying the tuition balance.
Currently, fees for organizations which attempt to influence legislation are included on tuition bills at some institutions as "negative check-off" fees. This means the person paying the tuition bill must elect not to include the organization fee with the tuition bill. This bill would change that procedure to a positive check-off, so that the person paying the tuition bill must elect to include the fee with the tuition payment.
Rutgers University is breaking the law with their current billing practice. According to the Rutgers Tuition and Fees page, the fee is categorized as one of their "Optional Fees". The required language is nowhere to be found and those paying the bill have to take an action to have the fee removed.
The NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission is proposing making miniscule changes to the way some reports are filed. They are seeking comments on these changes by February 17th. Below is the letter I sent them.
Michelle R. Levy, Esq., Associate Legal Director
Election Law Enforcement Commission
PO Box 185
Trenton, NJ 08625-0185
Dear members of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission:
On Thursday, January 15, 2015, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will discuss Senate Bill No. 1236 which seeks to establish a two-year pilot program placing the Edison Township (Middlesex County) Police Department's internal affairs function under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Attorney General. Important for transparency advocates are amendments proposed by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) that would require the Attorney General to "publicly disclose the internal affairs complaints, investigative reports and internal affairs dispositions for each internal affairs matter that was processed during the two year pilot program." NJFOG's proposal is fully supported by the bill's sponsor, Senator Peter J. Barnes, III (D-18), who has previously served on Edison's municipal council.
Haven't our legislators learned anything? The State Assembly has unanimously passed A783, a bill that increases penalties for possession of various drugs. The goal is to go after distributors however it uses weight of material possessed as the only factor in determining seriousness of the offense. The bill decreases threshold offenses for many drugs.
Of note is the estimated financial impact: "Costs would total $3,393,164, in the third year following enactment, increase to $5,552,214 in the fourth year, and $7,711,264 during the fifth and succeeding years following enactment." The total financial impact is stated as being "higher than the amount estimated by the DOC by an undetermined amount."
The New Jersey Libertarian Party urges the passage of A2270 - the "Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill" bill. The NJ Libertarian Party platform calls for "the repeal of all laws interfering with the right to commit suicide as infringement of the ultimate right of an individual to his or her own life."
New Jersey Libertarian Party
PO Box 56
Tennent, NJ 07763
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll
146 Speedwell Avenue
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Dear Assemblyman Carroll:
We are writing to you today to convey our strong support for the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill” Act (A2270). This legislation affirms the right of a qualified, terminally ill adult patient to obtain a prescription from his or her physician for medication that the patient may choose to self-administer for a humane and dignified death.
There are several interesting bills pending before the State Legislature. I urge you to contact your State Legislstors and the Committee members for each of these bills.
S1977 Marijuana Decriminalization
S1977 decriminalizes possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana. It treats marijuana possession as a civil offense and sets a fine of $50 for possession that gets paid entirely to the municipality where the offense was committed. Currently possession of up to 50 grams is a disorderly persons offense that can result in a up to 6 month prison sentence and a fine of up to $1,000.
On Monday a bill to decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana unanimously passed a NJ Assembly Committee. Among those to testify was Mick Erickson, our Libertarian Candidate for Congress in the 10th district.
From our friends at the Marijuana Policy Project:
In exciting news, a New Jersey Assembly Committee voted 7-0 yesterday to approve Assembly Bill 1465, a bill that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession. The full Assembly will vote on this sensible bill on Thursday.
Please click here to contact your assemblymembers in support of this proposal today!
Assembly Bill 1465 would make possession of one-half ounce, or 15 grams, of marijuana a summary offense similar to a parking ticket. Currently, those caught with small amounts of marijuana face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
At our summer General Meeting the members present the NJLP voted to officially support Assembly Bill A4252. This bill decriminalizes the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. This bi-partisan bill was sponsored by Reed Gusciora (D) and Michael Carroll (R). As of this date 15 co-sponsors have signed onto the bill.
This bill is not perfect. The limit of 15 grams (approximately 1/2 ounce) is too low and "offenders" will still face $150 fine. It is a huge improvement to the current law. Offenders today face a criminal conviction with up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
Today the NJ Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee voted to move A804 out of committee. The vote was 8 to 1, with 2 abstentions. The bill now moves to a vote before the state Assembly. Contact your State Assembly representatives and urge them to vote for this bill.
Listen to the testimony below.
This bill has come a long way. It a has already passed the State Senate, and Corzine has committed to signing it.
A804, NJ's medical marijuana bill is scheduled for a legislative hearing on Thursday in Trenton. We have gotten S119 through the Senate, we need a repeat performance on A804. The following is a message from the Drug Policy Alliance:
Here in New Jersey, you and I have been working hard to end the drug war. Next up is medical marijuana. Today, you can take action to help pass our state's Compassionate Use Act.
Testimonies Included Internationally Recognized Medical Expert Dr. Denis Petro, Chair of New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Patients Desperately Seeking Help and Their Families
Drug Policy Alliance, for Immediate Release: Thursday, May 22, 2008. Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243