New Jersey received much praise when voters legalized recreational cannabis, but for other cannabis bills, progress has been stalled temporarily. Governor Phil Murphy says he won’t sign off on the two cannabis bills that he must review until a provision is added about penalties for minors using cannabis.
Through S21 and S2535, Murphy seeks to give minors a $250 fine for being caught with less than an ounce of cannabis, and a $500 fine for possession of more than an ounce, but less than six. In other words, enough of a penalty to greatly discourage youth from using cannabis, but not anything that would ruin their lives forever.
This so called “clean-up” bill would make sure that, while cannabis would be decriminalized and no one would be going to jail, tickets could still be issued. “Through the cleanup bill, we’re bringing standardization and coherence to the process,” claims Murphy’s administration.
If lawmakers approve these changes, the legislation could be signed very quickly, and the delay could be over. However, if the New Jersey House and Senate disagree, or if one or the other doesn’t want the provision at all, there could be more delays.
The decriminalization bill was worded specifically to end arrests and penalties entirely, including juveniles, in order to advance racial and social equity. If minors are getting fines and tickets for cannabis use, that goes against the idea that cannabis should be penalty-free.
This delay is concerning to many, as the goal is to have a cannabis industry with law and regulation in place by January 1, when recreational cannabis officially becomes legal in New Jersey. If nothing is in place, people could still be arrested for cannabis use, and there will be no legal industry to begin making profit.