After Years of Debate, New Jersey Recreational Marijuana on the Horizon

It’s been a long wait, but New Jersey recreational marijuana will be available soon to residents of the Garden State. After voters approved legalization in the November 2020 election, lawmakers spent more than a month in debate before finally agreeing on a legal framework for the system.

If signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, who favors legalization, the law could go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

It’s a big moment for voters in the state, who overwhelmingly approved New Jersey recreational marijuana at the polls. But it’s also a milestone for legalization in the country. New Jersey will become the 15th state to allow legal recreational cannabis sales, as well as the largest on the east coast. Vermont also allows recreational cannabis but does not have a sales system set up.

New Jersey will be the fourth largest state to allow adult-use cannabis, behind California, Illinois and Michigan. “I commend lawmakers for working quickly to implement the will of the voters, who made their mandate clear at the ballot box,” said Carly Wolf, State Policies Coordinator for marijuana advocacy group NORML.

Details On New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Law

Many changes were made to the state law in the last few weeks. For those in New Jersey trying to figure it out, here are some of the highlights of the new legalization bill, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Decriminalization

People in New Jersey will be able to carry six ounces of weed without facing any charges, not even a written citation. This is the largest amount any state allows people to carry. The law also automatically expunged criminal records for those convicted of most marijuana possession crimes in the past.

Social Justice

The bill will impose a tax to pay for social justice programs. Most will go to what lawmakers call “impact zones,” communities where marijuana laws have historically been more strictly enforced. Part of the money will come from a 7 cent sales tax.

Dispensary License Cap

This is a big issue in every state. In the case of New Jersey, many in the state Senate wanted no cap on licenses. However, they finally agreed to cap it at 37 licenses for the first two years. That will limit where people can buy legal weed, but help keep the  market from getting saturated – something that can lead to more cannabis flowing into the black market.

The Impact on New York

NORML already expects legal New Jersey recreational marijuana to impact New York, where lawmakers have failed to create a legal recreational marijuana system. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already said that legalization in New Jersey will put pressure on New York to put the issue on the ballot.

Cuomo has also mentioned marijuana as a possible way to generate revenue for the state, which is likely to face budgetary issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Recent polls have shown 60% of New York voters approve of marijuana legalization.

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