TRENTON – Following up on the referendum which passed last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older.
The laws will also decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts and limit the use of previous marijuana convictions.
“Starting immediately, those who had been subject to an arrest for petty marijuana possession will be able to get relief and move forward,” Murphy said. “New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws are no more.”
Many municipalities in New Jersey have discussed banning the sale of such material in their towns. They would do this by amending zoning laws, which dictate what kind of businesses are allowed in certain areas. Governing bodies like those in Berkeley and Manchester have spoken out against the legalization, but when it comes to writing their own laws, they had to wait until now because state law supersedes local. Now that it is in writing, they can write their own local legislation to counter it.
On a state level, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) will be formed, creating regulations to govern the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. The law allows the State Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenue in designated “impact zones”; directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership; and protects employees who engage in lawful behavior with respect to cannabis.
Another bill would reform criminal and civil penalties for marijuana and hashish charges. The bill prevents unlawful low-level distribution and possession offenses from being used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions and provides certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. The bill also creates a pathway to vacate active sentences for certain offenses.
Another bill will clarify penalties for use by people younger than 21.
“The failed War on Drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities and hurting families in New Jersey and across our nation,” said U.S Senator Cory Booker. “Today is a historic day, and I applaud Governor Murphy, the legislature, and the many advocates for racial and social justice whose leadership is ensuring that New Jersey is at the forefront of equitable marijuana legalization policy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to end the federal marijuana prohibition so we can finally begin healing the wounds of decades of injustice.”
“This is a historic reform that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “We can now move forward to correct social injustices at the same time that marijuana is made legal for adults. This will launch a new cannabis industry with the potential to create jobs and generate economic activity at a time when it is desperately needed. The decriminalization law is the most sweeping measure of its kind in the country and is a groundbreaking step in our continued effort to make criminal justice reforms that are fairer and more effective. This will help reduce the racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system.”