New Jersey: Lawmakers Advance Legislation Imposing Civil Penalties for Underage Marijuana Use

Update 1/8/21 @ 3PM EST: Senator Teresa Ruiz and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari removed their names as sponsors of A5211 after opposition from black and Latino legislators. The bill will not receive further consideration from lawmakers.

Two separate state Assembly and Senate legislative committees approved companion legislation yesterday to impose civil fines for those under 21 who are caught with marijuana.

A5211/S3320 would impose civil fines between $50-250 for those ages 18-20 who are in possession of up to six ounces of marijuana. Those under 18 would receive a “curbside warning” or “stationhouse adjustment,” a resolution without formal court proceedings.

The measures would also move up the timeline for past conviction records to be vacated, allowing the process to begin “as soon as practicable.”

The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A5211 by a 8 to 3 vote, and the Senate Judiciary Committee later approved the identical S3320 by a 7 to 3 vote. The bills are expected to receive floor votes in the Assembly and Senate on Monday.

The measures were introduced on Monday after Democratic Governor Phil Murphy delayed signing separate legislation on his desk implementing Question 1, the voter-approved marijuana legalization law, which went into effect on January 1 without the necessary enabling legislation. Murphy mandated that lawmakers include penalties for underage marijuana use before he signs the enabling legislation into law.

A21/S21 to regulate the commercial marijuana market, as well as A1897 to remove all penalties for up to six ounces of marijuana possession, are currently awaiting Governor Murphy’s signature.

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.