Members of the New Jersey state Assembly and Senate have given final approval to legislation permitting the possession of marijuana by adults and regulating its commercial production and retail sales. Each of the measures now awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. The Assembly approved A21 by a 49 to 24 vote with six abstentions, and the Senate later approved S21 by a 23 to 17 vote.
“I commend lawmakers for working quickly to implement the will of the voters, who made their mandate clear at the ballot box.” said NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf. “While this legislation is not perfect and our work is far from finished, it is a crucial step forward toward repairing the decades of damage done to New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities as a result of the enforcement of marijuana prohibition. Historically, law enforcement in New Jersey has arrested more people per capita for marijuana law violations than almost any other state in the nation. Most notably, going forward tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding New Jerseyans will no longer be subject to arrest, incarceration, and a criminal record for their personal use of marijuana, and that is a reason to celebrate.”
Senate Bill 21 and Assembly Bill 21 establish regulatory guidelines for the marijuana market. Under the bills, adults may legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The measures cap the number of commercial cultivators permitted under the law at 37 for the first two years. The measures direct 70 percent of the revenue derived from sales taxes on retail marijuana purchases toward reinvestment in designated communities that have been most adversely impacted by prohibition.
“New Jersey is already one of the largest cannabis markets in the world, and the industry here is poised to grow substantially as the state embraces legalization and regulation,” said Cranford-based attorney Jennifer Cabrera of Vicente Sederberg LLP, a national cannabis law firm that has helped shape and implement cannabis laws and regulations across the U.S. She works closely with state lawmakers and regulators on cannabis policy issues and provided testimony to the Assembly regarding the legislation.
“This legislation creates the conditions for a vibrant craft cannabis industry in New Jersey,” Cabrera said. “Setting aside licenses and streamlining the application process for microbusinesses will hopefully enable a healthy number of smaller local companies to sprout up across the state. There are some additional steps we would like to see policymakers take to make it easier to operate these microbusinesses, and we look forward to working with them as they fine-tune the system. Still, this is a great starting point and opens the door to a lot of exciting opportunity for local entrepreneurs.”
Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey said, “We cannot overstate the significance of today’s vote in terms of racial justice and civil rights, or the monumental achievement of establishing one of the most ambitious models for community reinvestment in marijuana legalization in the country. With this legislation, we begin to address the pernicious, racially inequitable legacy of prohibition – but justice will follow only if we hold lawmakers to their promises of equity and work relentlessly for the pivotal justice measures that were not included in this legislation. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, and the ACLU-NJ will do all we can to ensure that the injustices of prohibition do not carry over to legalization.”
Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice added, “The spirit of justice is starting to take root here in New Jersey. Our fight has always been about race equity, economic justice, reparations, grace, mercy, and truth-telling. This has been such a powerful and transformative fight and journey and what is in front of the Legislature today is monumentally strong, especially in comparison to any other legalization movement around the nation. It is critical, as this moves forward, communities have the greatest say on how funds are reinvested. This is a first step, and it is certainly not the last.”