The Legislature hereby finds and declares to be the public policy of this State, the following:
a. By enactment of the “New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice,” N.J.S. 2C:1-1 et seq., the Legislature recognized the need for the comprehensive reevaluation, revision, consolidation and codification of our criminal laws, and the need to ensure a uniform, consistent and predictable system for the sentencing of convicted offenders, focusing principally on the seriousness and degree of dangerousness inherent in a particular offense. In enacting the sentencing provisions of the penal code, the Legislature recognized that the imposition of a uniform, consistent and predictable sentence for a given offense is an essential prerequisite to any rational deterrent scheme designed ultimately to reduce the incidence of crime.
b. Despite the impressive efforts and gains of our law enforcement agencies, the unlawful use, manufacture and distribution of controlled dangerous substances continues to pose a serious and pervasive threat to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this State. New Jersey continues to experience an unacceptably high rate of drug-related crime, and continues to serve as a conduit for the illegal trafficking of drugs to and from other jurisdictions. In addition to the harm suffered by the victims of drug abuse and drug-related crime, the incidence of such offenses is directly related to the rate of other violent and non-violent crimes, including murder, assault, robbery, theft, burglary and organized criminal activities. For this reason, enhanced and coordinated efforts designed specifically to curtail drug-related offenses will lead inexorably to a reduction in the rate of crime generally, and is therefore decidedly in the public interest.
c. In order to be effective, the battle against drug abuse and drug-related crime must be waged aggressively at every level along the drug distribution chain, but in particular, our criminal laws must target for expedited prosecution and enhanced punishment those repeat drug offenders and upper echelon members of organized narcotics trafficking networks who pose the greatest danger to society. In order to ensure the most efficient and effective dedication of limited investigative, prosecutorial, judicial and correctional resources, it is the policy of this State to distinguish between drug offenders based on the seriousness of the offense, considering principally the nature, quantity and purity of the controlled substance involved, and the role of the actor in the overall drug distribution network. It is the intention of the Legislature to provide for the strict punishment, deterrence and incapacitation of the most culpable and dangerous drug offenders, and to facilitate where feasible the rehabilitation of drug dependent persons so as ultimately to reduce the demand for illegal controlled dangerous substances and the incidence of drug-related crime. It is also the policy of this State to afford special protection to children from the perils of drug trafficking, to ensure that all schools and areas adjacent to schools are kept free from drug distribution activities, and to provide especially stern punishment for those drug offenders who operate on or near schools and school buses, who distribute to juveniles, or who employ juveniles in a drug distribution scheme. In addition, our criminal laws and sentencing practices must be reexamined and amended so as to minimize pretrial delay, thereby to ensure the prompt disposition of all drug-related criminal charges and the prompt imposition of fair and certain punishment.
d. Under the current drug laws, there are inadequate sentencing guidelines with which consistently to identify the most serious offenders and offenses and to guard against sentencing disparity and the resulting depreciation of the deterrent thrust of the criminal law. In order to protect the public interest, and so as to deter, disrupt and eliminate the operation of organized drug trafficking networks, it is necessary to undertake a comprehensive reexamination of our controlled dangerous substances laws, procedures and sentencing practices. The transfer of the provisions of the “New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act,” P.L. 1970, c. 226 (C. 24:21-1 et seq.) into the penal code which is accomplished herein, along with the amendments and supplements thereto, will better ensure that the most culpable drug offenders will be subject to swift prosecutions and strict, consistently imposed criminal sanctions.
L. 1987, c. 106, s. 1.