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  • Joseph DiDonato

New Jersey Enacts Legislation Reforming Marijuana Possession And Allowing Retail Sales Licenses

On February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation reforming marijuana possession and permitting recreational use.

Since Election Day 2020, three bills were signed by the Governor to reform New Jersey’s position on cannabis. On Election Day, New Jersey voters approved legislation permitting adults to possess and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. On December 17, 2020, A21/S21 and A1897 were approved and, after negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Murphy, A5342 was approved as a compromise "cleanup" bill on February 22, 2021.

A21/S21 provides for licenses for commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Under the new law, adults may legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis; subject to state sales tax. As negotiated by the lawmakers, a large majority of the revenue derived from the sales tax will be directed toward lower-income communities. Further, the new law provides for a cap on the number of state-licensed cultivators at 37 for the first two years. Established state-licensed medical cannabis producers will be eligible to provide to the retail market.

A1897 removes criminal and civil penalties for the private possession of up to six ounces of cannabis by those ages 21 and older, and for the possession of personal use amounts of hashish (up to 170 grams). Further, A1897 depenalizes the transfer of up to one ounce of cannabis, and reduces criminal penalties for activities involving larger quantities; distribution of greater than one ounce but less than five pounds of the substance.

Governor Murphy also signed a third piece of legislation into law, A5342 which provides for a series of written warnings, rather than application of criminal penalties or fines for those under the age of 21 who are in possession of cannabis. Under this law, third-time juvenile offenders may receive community service. Provisions in the law also restrict police from conducting searches of juveniles based solely on the odor of marijuana.

Provisions in the bill allowing the use and possession of marijuana take immediate effect. It is expected that adult-use retailers may be operational within six months. Therefore, details for application for retail sales in New Jersey will be forthcoming soon from the Cannabis Regulatory Committee (CRC).

Photo by Michael Fischer from Pexels.

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