Regardless of delays and frustrations, compromises in legalizing weeds in New Jersey are shifting ahead

In November 2020, New Jersey residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana. In the following months, Governor Phil Murphy has been reluctant to sign a bill.

NJ legalization efforts get lost in the details

Voters voted in favor of New Jersey Public Question 1 on November 3 by amending the state constitution to allow adults over the age of 21 to use marijuana for their leisure time. Since then, compromises have been embroiled in the same disputes that halted legalization efforts in 2018 and 2019. Penalties, regulations, and taxes are in the air, and – while ideas are being circulated – arrests related to marijuana continue to be made.

Last month it was reported that the Newark Police Department saw a 23% increase in marijuana possession arrests from January 2020 to January 2021, despite urging Attorney General Gubir Grewar to urge prosecutors not to take cases of small cannabis. Justin Leiby, associate professor of The Bookkeeper and editor of the crime report data asked, “What’s the point of arresting people for something that prosecutors are supposed to ignore? Note that I am not criticizing the officers making the arrests or the Newark Police Department. Officers do their job. If you tell them it is not their job to arrest people for possession of marijuana, most if not all of them would stop the arrests. “

As law enforcement agencies try to turn, lawmakers must determine how the adult cannabis program should work. While the 2020 referendum legalized recreational cannabis use, no legal framework was set. And while lawmaker is most likely to base Senator Nicholas Scutari’s 2018 marijuana legalization bill on, there are still key areas that need to be addressed. Governor Murphy has proposed not to sign the bills until they provide clear civil penalties for anyone under the age of 21 caught with marijuana. A new proposal could give Governor Murphy exactly what he wants.

The envisaged bill would speed up existing medical marijuana operators and set cultivation caps for the first two years, with licensing designed to meet increasing requirements. If reality is as forecast, the New Jersey market is likely to ignite a fire in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, and New York and Pennsylvania will be pressured to legalize and take some of the profits.

Specific provisions in New Jersey’s Bill include a special licensing priority for applicants from economically disadvantaged communities and areas affected by the war on drugs. Some other important provisions mentioned in the legislation are:

  • Existing medical marijuana operators could begin selling recreational products immediately (after obtaining appropriate licenses), but only if they have sufficient supplies to adequately meet medical cannabis needs.
  • Six license classes would be defined: cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler, dealer, retailer and supplier.
  • Cultivation licenses would be limited to 37 for the first two years, but with no microbusiness owned by residents.
  • The Cannabis Regulatory Commission would determine the number of licenses for each class based on “market demand”.
  • 7% tax on leisure sales with the option of a fluctuating “excise duty for social justice” for producers.
  • Excise tax revenues and 70% sales tax would benefit areas harmed by the marijuana ban.

What is NJ marijuana legalization?

It all falls back on Governor Murphy’s request. The bill is said to have remained on his desk at the end of December because no clear penalties were set for anyone under the age of 21 who possessed marijuana.

For the past six weeks, lawmakers have been debating how to deal with these penalties. “Cleaning bills” have been introduced, with recent demands for small fines and written warnings for minors who possess marijuana.

The bill also provides specific details about police interactions with minors caught with marijuana. The police must undergo training that focuses on interactions and avoids implicit racial prejudice when enforcing the sentences. While the clear penalties are there to appease Governor Murphy, the clear police training shows that efforts are being made to address the Black Legislative Caucus, which has raised concerns about the penalties being disproportionately directed against black and brown youth.

While the committee is expected to vote on the matter on Tuesday, February 16, Senate Justice Committee Chairman Senator Nick Scutari announced that the bill for an upcoming, unscheduled hearing will be held on Wednesday. Visit The Weed Blog for more information on marijuana legalization in New Jersey.

Additional resources:

At The Weed Blog, we strive to produce the latest online marijuana news sources. We also review different strains of cannabis or other edible counterparts. We want to help you find valuable information about marijuana on our website. Learn from us what you can do to promote activism in your area as marijuana laws are constantly changing. Otherwise, consider these other top-notch cannabis articles:

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