New Jersey: Governor Signs Marijuana Expungement Bill into Law

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation (A. 5981/S. 4154) into law today facilitating the expungement of low-level marijuana crimes and other offenses.

The measure establishes an expedited process for expunging the criminal records associated with minor marijuana-related violations, among other changes. An analysis of nationwide arrest data published last year reported that New Jersey was third in the nation in total marijuana arrests and second only to Wyoming in per capita marijuana arrests.

“This … will make it possible for thousands of residents now and in the future to truly be able to turn the corner and not have long forgotten mistakes marking them like a ‘scarlet letter’ for the rest of their lives,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, one of the bill’s sponsors.

In August, the Governor issued a conditional veto to similar legislation, opining at that time that it did not go far enough to streamline the expungement process.

While some provisions of the new law will take immediate effect, other parts of the measure will not be enacted for 180 days. New Jersey is among more than a dozen states that have enacted legislation in the past months to explicitly expunge or seal the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.

“I’m very happy with the State Legislature for taking steps to ensure justice for the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents whose lives have been irreparably harmed by the disastrous policy of cannabis prohibition,” said NORML NE Political Associate Tyler McFadden. “However, I do hope the legislature moves swiftly to end the arrests of thousands of New Jersey residents every month for simple possession. To expunge records while creating new ones is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars but a continued injustice on the backs of New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents.”

Governor Murphy also today signed separate legislation into law (A. 5823) restoring voting rights to 80,000 people who are currently on probation or parole. That law goes into effect in 90 days.