February 22, 2021

New Jersey Legalizes Adult Use Cannabis

Today, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills that legalize possession of up to six ounces of adult use Cannabis in the Garden State.  As part of the passage, the New Jersey state Senate and Assembly held a last-minute vote this morning on a bill that would replace arrests and fines for underage pot smokers with verbal warnings and referrals to community programs, like drug education or treatment.

“As of this moment, 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,” Murphy said while signing the bills.

But, just because the new bills have been signed doesn’t mean adult use sales will begin immediately.  Much work still needs to be done to license new dispensaries to meet the needs of the 100,000 medical marijuana patients that are already allowed to legally partake.  The medical dispensaries have had trouble supplying those patients and they need to prove they can dispense enough cannabis to them first before their doors can open to the public.

Murphy said the marketplace will begin taking shape in the coming months.  But, I predict that adult use sales will not start until later this year due to the drawn-out debates on civil penalties.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will oversee the industry, also has six months to adopt its own rules and regulations before it can start accepting new applicants for licenses.

In the meantime, the enforcement of prior criminal penalties will likely be eliminated.  “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,” Murphy said.