NJ Governor Murphy Signs Adult-Use Cannabis Reform Bills

Nearly four months after New Jersey voters approved an adult-use cannabis Constitutional amendment, Governor Phil Murphy has signed cannabis reform legislation.

Governor Murphy on Monday signed The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (A-21), legalizing and regulating cannabis use and possession by adults 21 years and older.

Governor Murphy also signed A1897, which decriminalizes cannabis and hashish possession, and S3454, which clarifies cannabis use and possession penalties for people under 21 years old.

Moving New Jersey Forward

Murphy says the legislation will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to New Jersey communities and establish minimum standards for safe products.

Cannabis legalization in New Jersey is a monumental step forward, says Murphy, to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system and stand on the right side of history.

“Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis,” says Governor Murphy. “Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible. This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market.”

Despite how long the process has taken, Murphy believes that it is ending in the right place and will serve as the national model.

Reforming Cannabis

A21 tasks the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) with the promulgation of regulations for the medical and adult-use cannabis industries.

The CRC will also oversee cannabis business license applications.

A21 also allows the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated impact zones and directs the CRC to promote diverse and inclusive business ownership.

A21 contains employment protections as well for people who lawfully possess and consume cannabis.

A1897 establishes criminal and civil penalty reform for cannabis-related offenses and offers solutions for those currently facing cannabis charges.

Under A1897, low-level distribution and possession offenses may not be used in pretrial release, probation, or parole decisions.

The bill also provides a path to expungement and protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and places of public accommodation.

In addition to clarifying penalties for underage cannabis possession and consumption, S3454 corrects inconsistencies in A21 and A1897 regarding penalties for those under 21.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) says that lawmakers’ refinement of the legislation aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use.

“New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey,” says Wimberly. “Today, we move on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation (sic) and statewide stakeholders. The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades.”

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31) says that New Jersey residents are not happy with the status quo and that the state needs to move in a compassionate direction for impacted communities.

“The call for action, for social justice reform, is resounding throughout our nation,” says McKnight. “And it begins in New Jersey today.”