Cannabis is Legal in New Jersey!
A sense of relief surrounds New Jersey’s cannabis legalization.
On November 3, 2020 New Jersey residents voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational cannabis. The law was scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2021, but with legal issues at hand the date was extended. On February 22, 2021, almost two months from the original date, recreational cannabis became fully legal in New Jersey.
New Jersey Public Question 1
Passing 67 to 33 percent, the largest margin of any legal state so far, Public Question 1 initially appeared to clear the way for adult recreational cannabis in New Jersey. However, thanks to lackluster lawmaking and political head-butting over further amendments, solid legislation had torpedoed at the eleventh hour, and left New Jersey cannabis legalization in a confusing state to say the least.
The Politics of Legal Weed in New Jersey
While nebulous lawmaking may have created the problem, political wrangling had slammed the brakes down on finding a solution. In the meantime, a bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana passed the Senate in December, but has since been stuck in the House thanks to the addition of a contentious provision regarding the legality of psilocybin mushrooms.
Furthermore, having agreed on definitive legislation covering adult use and sale of cannabis for those 21 and over, governor Phil Murphy held off signing it into law, citing a lack of legal provisions covering minors. His proposed “clean-up” bill would have seen 18 to 20 year olds subjected to harsh penalties in an attempt to dissuade young people from taking up cannabis, a clear backwards step that was thankfully shot down on January 8. After several weeks, a revised “clean-up” bill was presented with changes made to the original $500 maximum fine and "stationhouse adjustments". The maximum fine was dropped to $50 and minors would now receive written warnings from the police and referrals to community services like mentorship and counseling. However, the changes were not enough to win majority support on February 17, 2021 and was not until a rescheduled committee hearing on February 19 that the “clean-up” bill was approved.
On February 22, 2021, the bill was approved by a full vote and thereafter was signed into law by Governor Murphy. With that, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize recreational cannabis.
Legal Cannabis in NJ: What Happens Now?
The legislation signed by Gov Murphy decriminalizes the use or possession of up to six ounces of marijuana. While certain medical purposes were already authorized, patients are not allowed to grow cannabis themselves.
The signing of this bill marked a symbolic turning point after an era of racial disparities in enforcement. After the legislations pass, Amol Sinha, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, stated “Our state’s cannabis laws can set a new standard for what justice can look like.”
For now, we would advise New Jersey residents to stay informed and updated on the current cannabis market as the state moves into the next step by launching their first dispensaries. In the meantime, NJ cannabis users should expect a long period until they can legally purchase recreational marijuana.
After a long battle, the Garden State is finally 420 friendly.
written by Michelle Janikian and Lorena Granillo