With nine states and Washington D.C already allowing legal recreational marijuana, it looks like New Jersey is right around the corner to becoming the 10th state. The legalization of medical marijuana has grown in popularity across the United States. But, recreational marijuana has had a tough time being accepted by state governments around the nation. The bill in New Jersey has received much support and at the same time, quite a bit of opposition. The question on the line is will recreational marijuana be legal by January 1, 2019?
Introduction of The Bill
One of the critical points in Governor Murphy’s campaign was allowing legal recreational marijuana across the state of New Jersey. He saw this as a way to bring more revenue to the state and improve social justice. Once entering office, he called for the state legislature to pass a bill by the end of 2018. In June 2018, the state senator, Nicholas Scutari, introduced two bills that would expand the states medical marijuana industry and legalize recreational use for adults over 21. The bill was also heavily backed by Stephen Sweeney, the state senate president. Provisions in the bill call for 218 marijuana dispensaries as well as other measures including protections for people who test positive for marijuana and allowing dispensaries to create an onsite retail location for customers to consume marijuana. Some lawmakers oppose the combined bill
The Temporary Decriminalization of Marijuana
In July of 2018, the chief municipal prosecutor of Jersey City issued a memorandum decriminalizing marijuana. The state attorney general Gerbir Grewal responded the next day saying that this was not in the scope of authority for municipal prosecutors. He effectively voided the legal memorandum. To sort out the issue, Grewal put a statewide hold on the prosecution of marijuana cases until September 4, 2018. During this time he and other criminal justice stakeholders worked towards a solution regarding the authority of municipal prosecutors over marijuana-related offenses. Nearly a month after his letter, Grewal issued a memo directing municipal prosecutors that marijuana may not issue “blanket determinations.” But, they may use their discretion for each individual case to decide on prosecution for small amounts of the drug.
While this did not directly affect the marijuana bill, it did illustrate the state and municipal governments general attitude towards legal recreational marijuana.
Some NJ Towns Ban Legal Recreational Marijuana Ahead of Time
After Governor Murphy’s election into office, nearly 30 towns banned the sale of legalized weed. Some of these towns include Berkeley, Bridgewater, Garfield, Pleasantville, and Union City. Some municipalities have not banned the sale of legal recreational marijuana outright, but they strongly oppose legalization of the drug. Several cities are considering a ban but are waiting for more information on the proposed bill.
NJ Mayors Request Immediate Expungement Of Marijuana Convictions
Some of the mayors in New Jersey are against allowing legal recreational marijuana in NJ unless provisions are explicitly made for people and communities who have been profoundly affected by the war on drugs. They demand that the bill include immediate expungement for the people who are serving sentences for low-level marijuana-related offenses. They also want these people to be eligible for licenses to sell marijuana in the state. Cities like Jersey City and Newark and Hoboken wants the marijuana bill to address the historical racial disparities. Heavy enforcement of state drug laws is specific areas are factors in the disparities. In addition, they would like municipalities to have control of the amount of licenses in their jurisdictions.
Concerns About Legal Recreational Marijuana
Of course, there are concerns about the legalization of recreational marijuana. Groups, like the New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy, oppose legalizing the drug. They have concerns it will expose it more to the youth. Other concerns include an increase in drugged driving which lawmakers acknowledge will have to be accounted for in the marijuana policy. One issue that other states have in allowing legal recreational marijuana is that it can be difficult to use a breathalyzer to detect impairment since marijuana can stay in your system for more extended periods of time.
Will New Jersey allow legal recreational marijuana? We’re not sure, but it looks like lawmakers will vote on this by the end of September. In the meantime, if you do get caught with a drug, remember to call the Law Office of Douglas Herring. And, if the vote passes to legalize recreational marijuana and you have a prior or current conviction on your record for a marijuana-related offense, give us call to see how we can help get your convictions expunged.