Months after voters chose to legalize cannabis on the November 2020 ballot, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed recreational cannabis into law.
“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,” the governor said in a press statement on February 22.
The new law sets up a system to oversee the industry through the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which will be in charge of choosing which applicants receive cannabis business licenses. “The legislation further provides 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 governor’s office stated.
In an effort to change the culture surrounding cannabis consumption and persecution in marginalized communities, the bill “prevents low-level distribution and possession offenses from being used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions and provides certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation,” Gov. Murphy continued. “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.”There will be certain penalties in place, including consequences for selling cannabis to people who are under the legal age of 21. The specific issue of how to enforce recreational cannabis penalties was one of the reasons that New Jersey’s program was delayed. “It took a lot of compromise and hard work on behalf of legislative leaders and Gov. Murphy to get this across the finish line and they should be commended for their efforts,” said DeVaughn Ward, the senior legislative counsel for the non-profit group the Marijuana Policy Project, regarding the state’s recent legalization.