After much back and forth, New Jersey has legalized cannabis. Citizens approved a ballot initiative by a 2-to-1 margin in November 2020, with lawmakers doing their part in passing legislation in late February 2021.
“New Jersey cannot afford to sacrifice public safety and civil rights by continuing its ineffective and wasteful past marijuana enforcement policies,” stated a declaration in the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act.
The passage by constituents did not remove uncertainty from the proceedings, which once again saw lawmakers almost fail to pass a law before the session ended. However, when all was said and done, infighting and disagreements were hashed out, and a bill was completed, making New Jersey the 13th state to legalize cannabis for adults.
While the bill is momentous for the Garden State, it does come with its share of criticism and concern. That said, the state now has cannabis laws for all adults 21 and over. Here is what citizens and visitors to the state can and can’t do with the plant.
What’s Legal In New Jersey?
What Are My Legal Cannabis Rights In New Jersey Today?
Like most states, cannabis laws in New Jersey follow guidelines similar to smoking nicotine or drinking alcohol: You can’t in public, be it the beach or nearby a school or walking down the street. Adults 21 and over are now permitted to possess and consume cannabis in the privacy of their own homes. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to set their own rules, though the pandemic could delay much of its implementation for the time being.
Consumption under 21 remains prohibited. The topic was a significant sticking point during the development of the laws.
Ultimately, rules stipulate that minors receive a warning on their first offense. The same occurs the second time, with the warning accompanied by drug treatment information. The third offense is another warning that comes with a referral to treatment–with parents or guardians receiving a copy as well.
Can I Buy Cannabis Right Now?
Not just yet. With the law passed, next comes the development of the marketplace. Unlike the rules, which took immediate effect once signed by Governor Phil Murphy, the regulations for licensing, sales and other critical aspects still must get finalized. The state’s newly formed Cannabis Regulatory Commission is tasked with overseeing the creation of these rules.
For now, only those with valid medical licenses can purchase from a dispensary in New Jersey. The newly passed law stipulates that the first adult use dispensary could open as early as 180 days of the bill’s passage, or August 27, 2021. However, the date could be delayed as market implementations rarely come online in such a period.
How Much Can I Buy When Marijuana Sales Begin In New Jersey?
Once opened, adult use dispensaries will be allowed to sell a person up to one ounce of cannabis. Gifting is also allowed and capped at one ounce as well.
So I Can Possess Up To An Ounce At A Time?
Here’s where things might get confusing.
New Jersey is the first state in the U.S. to set a different cap on sales and possession. The good news is that possession limits are significantly higher than purchasing limits, meaning you won’t get busted for any legally purchased cannabis. At most, a dispensary can sell you one ounce. Under the passed regulations, adults can possess up to six ounces of cannabis, five grams of resin, and 17 grams of hashish.
Can I Get In Trouble For My Consumption Devices?
Not if the pieces are specifically used for cannabis. Under the rules, devices used for drug consumption remain prohibited. Still, cannabis has its exception, which could lead to debates in court over what falls under the law’s purview.
What Is Illegal Under The Current Regulations?
Distribution Gifting up to an ounce is now legal, but distribution sure isn’t.
The AP notes that the state considers the distribution of 25 pounds or more of marijuana as a first-degree offense. The same is said for five pounds or more of hashish. Those caught distributing lesser volumes of either may find themselves charged with a second- or third-degree crime.
Despite home growing being a central component to many advocate’s legalization agendas, New Jersey opted not to allow it. A person must obtain a commercial license to be considered a legal cultivator in New Jersey. Unlicensed growers could face criminal penalties varying in degree based on the weight of their crop.
Space is limited for those looking to grow commercially. New Jersey placed a cap of 37 licenses on cultivators through the early portion of 2023. The state’s 12 currently licensed medical growers count as part of the 37, leaving 25 open spaces for would-be applicants.
Smell-Based Police Searches
In one of the more significant changes to the laws, police are no longer allowed to use smell alone as the reason for a search. The rule applies to individuals as well as homes and vehicles.
Cannabis Prohibition For The Accused And Parolees
Parolees and individuals on pretrial release can now consume cannabis or hashish without fear of violating their sentencing or release terms.
Additionally, New Jersey’s decriminalization law tasked the Administrative Office of the Courts to vacate all sentences, convictions, supervision and unpaid fines imposed against cannabis offenders. Those with pending cases must have their prosecutor seek a dismissal for any one-time crimes.
Job Termination, Within Limits New Jersey’s cannabis laws prevent employers from dismissing employees based on their cannabis use. A person won’t lose their role for consuming off-hours. However, they can if caught under the influence while on the job.
Again, consider the rule to be in line with alcohol consumption. Stay Up To Date For The Latest Developments In New Jersey Cannabis New Jersey’s legislation is just taking shape. In the coming months, regulations will be shaped, and its marketplace may soon open.
Stay up to date on all the latest cannabis fundamentals and other news by following Green Flower.
And while you’re waiting for the market to come online, head over to Green Flower’s learning centers to dive into cannabis career pathways, policy and other higher education routes.