After numerous delays and much deliberation, New Jersey legislators have approved more changes to its legal cannabis legislation.
On January 7, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary and Assembly Appropriations Committees advanced the new legislation, called A5211, which is referred to as the “clean-up bill.” It makes a few key changes, including how the penalties for underage cannabis users will be handled.
At the end of December, Governor Phil Murphy refused to sign two cannabis bills unless they included more provisions regarding youth cannabis consumption. These new proposals would give those between the ages of 18 and 21 a $50 to $250 fine for less than six ounces of cannabis. Adults 21 and older will have to pay a fine of $100 to $500 if they possess more than six ounces.
Anyone under 18 will be dealt with by their parents, who will be informed about the cannabis consumption by police officers, followed by parental discipline. Most importantly for youth advocates, being caught with cannabis will no longer be a misdemeanor-level charge. Underage drinking, on the other hand, remains a misdemeanor in New Jersey.
“I hope this is the last time we do this,” said Senator Nick Scutari, who sponsored the bill and is eager for legalization to finally pass. “But I don’t have any doubt we’ll be back to do more. But I think we have an excellent piece of legislation here, and I look forward to getting this signed and seeing how it works out. I hope with the use of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as well as a legislature that’s engaged, we’ll make sure we do everything we can to make it work.”
The bill still needs to be officially signed into law, but those involved with the legislation remain confident that this time will bring success.