Trenton, NJ — Members of the New Jersey state Assembly and Senate have given final approval to legislation permitting the possession of [cannabis] by adults and regulating its commercial production and retail sales. Each of the measures now awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
“I commend lawmakers for working quickly to implement the will of the voters, who made their mandate clear at the ballot box.” said NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf. “While this legislation is not perfect and our work is far from finished, it is a crucial step forward toward repairing the decades of damage done to New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities as a result of the enforcement of [cannabis] prohibition. Historically, law enforcement in New Jersey has arrested more people per capita for [cannabis] law violations than almost any other state in the nation. Most notably, going forward tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding New Jerseyans will no longer be subject to arrest, incarceration, and a criminal record for their personal use of [cannabis], and that is a reason to celebrate.”
Senate Bill 21 and Assembly Bill 21 establish regulatory guidelines for the [cannabis] market. Under the bills, adults may legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The measures cap the number of commercial cultivators permitted under the law at 37 for the first two years. The measures direct 70 percent of the revenue derived from sales taxes on retail [cannabis] purchases toward reinvestment in designated communities that have been most adversely impacted by prohibition.
Legislative leaders reached an agreement on the final details of the legalization implementation plan last week, which was then approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday and the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.
Lawmakers separately approved legislation removing criminal and civil penalties for the possession of up to six ounces and for the distribution of up to one ounce of [cannabis]. An analysis of nationwide arrest data published in 2018 reported that New Jersey was third in the nation in total [cannabis] arrests and second only to Wyoming in per capita [cannabis] arrests.
On Election Day, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved Public Question 1, which instructed lawmakers to enact legislation permitting adults to possess and purchase [cannabis] from licensed retailers. Question 1 will officially take effect on January 1, 2021.
NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of [cannabis] by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use [cannabis] responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for [cannabis]-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.