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N.J. Activist Groups Form Coalition To Push For Legalization Of Recreational Marijuana Use

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There was a push on Wednesday to legalize marijuana in New Jersey.

Gov. Chris Christie is against it, but a coalition of advocates is calling for change, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

Right now it's just a grass roots effort. A group of local prosecutors, civil rights leaders, medical experts and activists are seeking to legalize, tax and regulate the distribution and use of marijuana in the Garden State.

"The time has come to begin fixing our criminal justice system by ending unjust marijuana arrests," New Jersey ACLU Executive Director Udi Ofer said.

NJ Activist Groups Form Coalition To Push For Legalization Of Recreational Marijuana Use

Ofer told WCBS 880's Levon Putney the state makes more than 21,000 marijuana arrests each year, translating into $127 million spent every year enforcing the state's marijuana laws.

"These arrests disproportionately affect the black community. A black person is nearly three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey than a white person, despite the fact that the usage rates are practically the same," NAACP-N.J. President Richard Smith said.

Although Republican Gov. Christie is vehemently opposed to legalizing marijuana, the group has attracted the support of some Republicans, including a Clark, New Jersey prosecutor.

"Republicans, like myself, are against the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars on government programs that do not work and are not necessary," said Henry Barr, president of the state's Municipal Prosecutors' Association.

"The prohibition of marijuana is not working because police must prove every joint seized from a person is in fact marijuana," Barr added.

Although supporters haven't decided whether to seek a voter referendum and revealed other details of their move to legalize pot, they have agreed on some basics:

* Pot will be legal only for adults 21 and older

* Smoking and driving will be illegal

* Possession of one ounce will be the legal limit

* You can only grow a maximum of six plants for personal use.

One group has already scheduled what it is calling a "million joint march" in Trenton next month. The group is calling it a spring smoke out and it will not only be on the grass; they're bringing their own, Kramer reported.

Advocates said from 2000-10 there were nearly 210,000 people arrested for an offense that many presidents have admitted doing.

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