New Jersey: Lawmakers Approve Measures Implementing Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization

New Jersey Legislature Votes to Stop Marijuana Arrests

Members of the New Jersey state Assembly and Senate have given final approval to legislation permitting the possession of marijuana by adults and regulating its commercial production and retail sales. Each of the measures now awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

Senate Bill 21 and Assembly Bill 21 establish regulatory guidelines for the marijuana 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 marijuana purchases toward reinvestment in designated communities that have been most adversely impacted by prohibition.

The Assembly approved A21 by a 49 to 24 vote, and the Senate later approved S21 by a 23 to 17 vote.

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 and Assembly Appropriations Committee earlier this week.

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 marijuana. An analysis of nationwide arrest data published in 2018 reported that New Jersey was third in the nation in total marijuana arrests and second only to Wyoming in per capita marijuana arrests.

On Election Day, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved Public Question 1, which instructed lawmakers to enact legislation permitting adults to possess and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. Question 1 will officially take effect on January 1, 2021.

Commenting on the passage of the statewide legalization bills, Garden State NORML Executive Director Charlana McKeithen said, “After over half a century of unjust and racist cannabis policies, the state of New Jersey finally took decisive action today to end the practice of cannabis criminalization. Garden State NORML is proud to be a part of this movement and we look forward to working with State Regulators, State Legislators and City Officials to ensure that legalization and decriminalization is carried out in a way that is most beneficial for consumers and the communities most harmed by prohibition.”

NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf added, “I commend lawmakers for working quickly to implement the will of the voters, who made their mandate clear at the ballot box. 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 marijuana prohibition. Historically, law enforcement in New Jersey has arrested more people per capita for marijuana 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 marijuana, and that is a reason to celebrate.”