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Governor Murphy Signs off on New Jersey Cannabis Legalization Bills

It is official, Governor Murphy signed three bills that together legalize cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older, making New Jersey the 13th state to legalize cannabis. On Monday, February 22, 2021, Governor Murphy signed the bills in to law, after both the Senate and Assembly held voting to pass a third bill establishing civil penalties for those under 21 caught with cannabis.

Here are New Jersey’s new cannabis laws, effective immediately:

  1. New Jersey adults 21 years of age and older may legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, although cannabis consumers will not have legal means to purchase it yet. Under A21/S21 a New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be established to develop regulations to govern the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. The bill directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership and contains employment protections for people who engage in lawful behavior with respect to cannabis. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission still must be fully seated to oversee the cannabis industry, which has six months to set up its rules and regulations before it seeks new licensees for businesses. The bill provides for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated “impact zones” and all retail sales will be subject to state sales tax and seventy percent of that revenue will be given to these “impact zones.”
  2. The second law signed by Governor Murphy, A1897 reduces criminal and civil penalties for those found with larger quantities of cannabis in their possession (distribution of more than one ounce but less than five pounds), as well as provides remedies for people currently fighting certain cannabis charges, including a pathway to vacate active sentences for particular offenses committed before enactment of the enabling legislation. The bill prevents certain unlawful 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.
  3. A third law signed by Governor Murphy, A5342/S3454 also refines penalties for cannabis possession and consumption for those under 21 years of age. This bill requires a series of written warnings, rather than criminal penalties or fines, for those under 21 years of age found with cannabis. Third-time offenders can receive community service. The law also restricts police from conducting searches of those under 21 years of age based solely on the odor of cannabis.

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