TRENTON, N.J. – Following a delay of more than three months since New Jersey voters first approved the state’s marijuana ballot Question 1, a constitutional amendment allowing possession, sale, and recreational use, Governor Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) signed into law three cannabis reform bills. The legislation—A21, A1897, and S3454—will establish a recreational cannabis marketplace for adults 21 years and older, decriminalize possession, and clarify underage use and possession penalties, respectively.
“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,” said Governor Murphy. “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. This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market. Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model.”
Under A21, known as the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, the new adult-use market will be regulated by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) which also will oversee cannabis business license applications. The legislation also “provides provisions for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated ‘impact zones’, directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership, and contains critical employment protections for people who engage in lawful behavior with respect to cannabis.”
The second bill, A1897, reforms criminal and civil penalties for marijuana offenses and places limits on which types of offences can be used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions. The legislation also provides protections against discrimination in housing and employment and creates a pathway to vacate active sentences for certain offenses.
According to the governor’s office, S3454 “corrects inconsistencies in A21 and A1897 concerning marijuana and cannabis penalties for those underage.”
“This legislation will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to our communities, while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters,” said Murphy. “Today, we’re taking a monumental step forward to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system, while building a promising new industry and standing on the right side of history. I’d like to thank the Legislature, advocates, faith leaders, and community leaders for their dedicated work and partnership on this critical issue.”