New Jersey Officially Legalizes Marijuana After Years of Efforts

After several years of failed attempts and efforts, New Jersey finally legalized marijuana on Monday, February 22, 2021, when Governor Philip D. Murphy signed three bills into law. These bills permit and regulate the use of recreational marijuana in the Garden State (with some strict stipulations) and focus on community outreach for previous marijuana-related convictions. The legalization of marijuana in New Jersey comes after a long run of unsuccessful attempts and hopes to end the era of arrests and ambiguity. Below, we take a closer look at New Jersey’s path to legalization of marijuana, as well as the recently enacted legislation itself.

At First, New Jersey Legalized Cannabis, Not Marijuana

On November 3, 2020, New Jersey voted in favor of legalizing “cannabis” with the approval of New Jersey Public Question 1. On January 1, 2021, this Constitutional amendment went into effect and officially legalized cannabis in New Jersey. However, ambiguity surrounding marijuana regulations lingered as all of the laws that prohibited “marijuana” possession, use, and sales remained in effect. New Jersey Public Question 1 added a paragraph to the state Constitution asserting that “cannabis” was lawful, but it did not include “marijuana” in that amendment. “Marijuana” in New Jersey was still defined as “unregulated cannabis.” Thus, while “cannabis” was de facto legalized, there were no laws in place that established any sort of regulated marijuana market and no details as to how much marijuana adults could possess or where they could purchase it. 

At Last, the Legalization of Marijuana in New Jersey

On February 22, 2021, Governor Philip D. Murphy fully legalized recreational marijuana in the state of New Jersey with the signing and passing of three bills and added a tweet stating, “New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws are no more.” This legislation is accompanied by a new regulatory framework for a cannabis market and relief for previous petty marijuana convictions. 

The bills legalize adult-use (21 and over) marijuana, decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, limit the validity and use of previous marijuana convictions, and aim to create a fully regulated cannabis marketplace for dispensaries and cannabis delivery services. Previously, underage drinking and marijuana possession offenses were subject to $1,000 fines and up to six months in jail. The new legislation now states these offenses are subject to written warnings and community service. 

This recently enacted legislation also mandates that previous “low-level distribution and possession offenses” can no longer be used in most judicial matters, such as pretrial release, probation, or parole decisions. 

Additionally, the bills apply New Jersey’s current 6.625 percent sales tax to each marijuana transaction and stipulate that 70% of the proceeds from that tax will contribute to communities most heavily affected by marijuana-related arrests. 

Marijuana lawyer Chelsie Spencer remains active in the cannabis community and is committed to providing legal services and counsel to a range of marijuana, hemp, and CBD businesses. With extensive experience in cannabis, marijuana, hemp, and CBD law, Chelsie also focuses on transactional issues in commercial law, intellectual property law, and business law. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or give us a call at 214.295.5070 for more information.