New Jersey becomes the 13th state to legalize marijuana as Gov. Phil Murphy signs the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act” into law. The bill legalizes and regulates cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older and decriminalizes marijuana and hashish possession.
During November’s General Election, marijuana legalization received 67% of the vote in the Garden State. New Jersey is the first state in the mid-Atlantic to legalize marijuana.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) will promulgate regulations to govern the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. The legislation further provides for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated “impact zones,” directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership and contains employment protections for people who engage in lawful behavior with respect to cannabis.
“Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible,” said Murphy. “This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market.”
New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said drug laws targeted people of color and the poor, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities hurting families in New Jersey.
“Today is a historic day, and I applaud Gov. Murphy, the legislature, and the many advocates for racial and social justice whose leadership is ensuring that New Jersey is at the forefront of equitable marijuana legalization policy,” Booker said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to end the federal marijuana prohibition so we can finally begin healing the wounds of decades of injustice.”
The law reforms criminal and civil penalties for marijuana and hashish offenses, as well as provides remedies for people currently facing certain marijuana charges. The bill prevents unlawful low-level distribution and possession offenses from being used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions and provides certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation.
The bill also creates a pathway to vacate active sentences for certain offenses committed before enactment of the enabling legislation.
Melissa Moore, New York State director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said New Jersey’s legalization of marijuana should lead New York to legalization.
“Now is the time to build on our neighbor’s success, and pass the Marijuana Reform and Taxation Act (MRTA) right here in New York,” Moore said. “Our state is on the cusp of becoming a national leader in the fight for true marijuana justice through strong social equity and community reinvestment provisions in the bill currently pending in the Legislature.”