Marijuana Charges and Diversionary Programs (Part 3)

by | Jul 15, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Marijuana Charges and Diversionary ProgramsJudge Sabatino continued in relevant part: Consistent with the “clean slate” public policies underlying CREAMMA and its companion laws, the Legislature logically gave special emphasis to the pretrial detention and bail setting to assure that arrestees with a marijuana conditional discharge did not lose their liberty precipitously because of that prior record. That emphasis, however, does not undermine the reasons we have already explained in harmonizing the new laws in the PTI context as well.

Our statutory interpretation is consistent with the litany of findings expressed in N.J.S.A. 24:61-32(a) through (o); they reflect a clear legislative intent to construe CREAMMA and its companion bills broadly and robustly so as to achieve their remedial purposes. See Brugaletta v. Garcia (2018) (illustrating the importance of legislative findings and declarations, and the need to construe statutes in a manner that is faithful to “patent legislative desire” as reflected in those findings and declarations).

As part of its reasoning, the Appellate Division rested on the introduction of A. 1978 (2022), an Assembly bill with the stated aim of expressly granting PTI eligibility to persons with records expunged or vacated by CREAMMA. We decline to afford the proposed bill such significance. The bill only reflects the current stated desires of the individual legislators who sponsor it. It does not represent the collective intent of the Legislature at the time when it enacted CREAMMA in February 2021, or, for that matter, the intent of the legislators who adopted the PTI and expungement statutes years ago.

As is well established, one “may not rely on pending legislation,” which may never be adopted, to establish legislative intent. Johnson v. Roselle EZ Quick, LLC (2016). Moreover, post-enactment statements by legislators who had been involved earlier in passing a bill about the supposed intent of a codified provision “are of limited legal value” in construing such a provision. N.J. Coal. of Health Care Prof’ls, Inc. v. Dep’t of Banking & Ins. (App. Div. 1999).

The Appellate Division seems to have been influenced by the position of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. That position gave logical wait to portions of CREAMMA that were proposed, but not enacted.