Gov. Murphy Signs Regulation and Decrim Bills That Officially Legalize Marijuana in New Jersey

Image via Joe Gurreri/Freedom Leaf

On February 22, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills that effectively legalizes marijuana in New Jersey. A stalement had developed over underage use, requiring separate legislation. Facing an imminent deadline, Murphy inked decrim, regulation and underage use legislation in one fell swoop.

Murphy, who supported legalization during his campaign in 2017, triumphantly stated:

"New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise are no more.

"And, starting immediately, those who had been subject to an arrest for petty marijuana possession - an arrest that may have kept them from a job or the opportunity to further their education - will be able to get relief and move forward."

NORML state policies manager Carly Wolf noted:

“The enactment of these laws is long overdue. Now, going forward, tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding New Jerseyans will no longer be subject to arrest and a criminal record for their personal use of marijuana, and the commercial market will be regulated in a fair and inclusive manner.”

You’d think with 67% of the New Jersey voters approving adult-use cannabis for people 21 and older on Election Day, the state legislature in Trenton would have had the political will to pass accompanying legislation. However, Gov. Phil Murphy remained at odds with lawmakers over some key details around penalties for people under 21 caught with cannabis.

Under legislative calendars for the S21 bill to legalize cannabis and the S2535 bill to decriminalize it, Murphy had until February 8 to either sign or veto the bills. That deadline was extended twice to February 22.

The governor had pointed out that the bills conflict with each other because one laid out criminal penalties for under-21 youths possessing cannabis and the other did away with penalties entirely. 

Under the new decrim law, New Jersey adults can now possess up to six ounces. Under the law governing use by minors, police are required to give warnings rather than make arrests.

Despite ther November vote, arrests for possession continued in New Jersey, especially in communities of color. In January, 2,378 people were busted on cannabis charges.

It's unclear when adult-use sales will begin in the Garden State. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission has six months to create rules and regulations for licencing. With just 13 medical dispenaries in the state, there will be a need for swift expansion to handle a population of nearly nine million.

This artricle was orignally posted on January 29. It has been updateed several times.


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Steve Gelsi

Steve Gelsi

Senior reporter for The Deal and former contributor to Freedom Leaf and High Times