The governor of New Jersey said on Monday that he’s “open” to the idea of decriminalizing possession of all currently illicit drugs—though his focus remains set for now on implementing marijuana legalization in the state.
During a press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) was asked where he stands on ending criminalization for simple possession, as Oregon has done following voter approval of a reform initiative in November.
“Am I open-minded to further decriminalization? I suppose so. But I think we’ve taken the biggest step, and that is marijuana,” he said, referring to the enactment of a legalization bill that the legislature passed after voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on the policy change.
“I’m open-minded to hear their arguments [about broader decriminalization],” Murphy said. “But I think we’ve taken a big step and I want to get that step embedded—that’s my personal opinion—and get this right before we consider taking further steps.”
Murphy’s public openness to considering removing criminal penalties for possession of all drugs is the latest example of how broad decriminalization beyond cannabis—an issue once quickly dismissed out of hand—is gaining greater acceptance among politicians.
Oregon approved a historic measure to end criminalization for simple possession via citizen initiative, but lawmakers in California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, Washington State and Virginia have also introduced drug policy reform bills during the 2021 session—some dealing only with psychedelics but others that similarly call for comprehensive decriminalization.
A Republican in Iowa, one of a growing number of GOP lawmakers playing a direct role in advancing drug reform, introduced a bill to remove psilocybin from the list of controlled substances and filed another piece of legislation to let seriously ill patients use psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, DMT and other drugs.
In New York, lawmakers are considering both a measure to decriminalize drugs and a separate bill that would decriminalize psilocybin and psilocin, the chief psychoactive components in psychedelic mushrooms.
Candidates for mayor of New York City discussed their views on drug policy at a forum last week, with Andrew Yang saying he supports legalizing psilocybin and cannabis, and is in favor of decriminalizing some opioids.
While no decriminalization bills for all drugs have been introduced so far in New Jersey this session, Murphy did sign a bill last month that reclassifies possession of up to an ounce of psilocybin mushrooms as a disorderly persons offense.
And after the governor signed marijuana legalization legislation last month, the state’s attorney general directed prosecutors to drop cases for cannabis-related offenses and issued separate guidance for police on how to proceed under the updated laws.
At the federal level, President Joe Biden’s nominee for a top Justice Department position disappointed reform advocates after testifying that, despite her prior civil rights work advocating for decriminalization, she no longer supports the policy.