- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - In a story Nov. 23 about increasing marijuana arrests in New Jersey, The Associated Press improperly paraphrased a quote by the executive director of New Jersey’s ACLU chapter. Udi Ofer said he doubts “anyone knows the exact answer” and noted the increase “coincides with a governor who has taken an incredibly harsh tone on marijuana use,” but Ofer did not say that the spike could be attributed to Christie’s harsh tone.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Marijuana possession arrests on the rise in New Jersey

Marijuana arrests increasing in New Jersey even as they decline elsewhere, worrying activists

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Nearly double the number of people were arrested for marijuana possession in a year in New Jersey compared to 20 years ago, according to the latest figures available.

The change runs counter to the nationwide trend as public acceptance of marijuana use grows in the United States, leading generally to a decline in arrests.

Udi Ofer, executive director of New Jersey’ ACLU chapter, said he’s especially concerned by the numbers because studies show African-Americans are charged with simple possession three times as much as whites despite both groups having the same usage rates for the drug.

New Jersey’s 24,765 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013 was the state’s highest number in 20 years, nearly doubling the amount in 1993 when the population was 12 percent less, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported (https://bit.ly/1X9R3Eh). Simple possession is considered less than 50 grams, or about 1 3/4 ounces.

As legislators debate whether to legalize and regulate the drug, Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto any bill that would legalize recreational marijuana use.

Ofer said that he doubts “anyone knows the exact answer, but it’s a point of concern.”

“It coincides with a governor who has taken an incredibly harsh tone on marijuana use,” he said.

Chris Goldstein, board member of PhillyNORML, a Philadelphia-based marijuana advocacy group, said: “Christie is the most vocal marijuana prohibitionist in America right now. … His rhetoric obviously hasn’t been lost on the police captains of New Jersey.”

A spokesman for Christie called any link between the governor’s stance on marijuana and the number of arrests in New Jersey a “harebrained theory.”

Bills seeking to legalize or decriminalize the drug are pending in the New Jersey state legislature.

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