The enactment of New Jersey’s voter-approved marijuana legalization law, which is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021, is likely to be delayed after Democratic Governor Phil Murphy voiced concerns over enabling legislation to end marijuana possession arrests and regulate the commercial marketplace. Majorities in both chambers recently approved the enabling measures, which await the Governor’s signature. 

State Senate and Assembly members approved S21/A21, which establishes regulatory guidelines for the marijuana market and allows adults to legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis.

Lawmakers also approved A1897, legislation that removes criminal and civil penalties for the possession of up to six ounces and for the distribution of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Murphy is calling for lawmakers to impose civil penalties of either $250 or $500 for offenses involving use and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those under 21. Currently, the proposed law imposes no fine. The Governor has stated that he intends to sign the package of bills at the same time, and is demanding that lawmakers amend the legislation prior to taking any further action.

If Governor Murphy does not sign the bills into law before January 1, 2021, law enforcement could still continue to arrest New Jerseyans in violation of the voters’ intent. However, if that happens, the state Attorney General’s Office has instructed local prosecutors to either dismiss or adjourn any pending low-level marijuana cases.

Commenting on the delay, NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf said: “It is paramount that lawmakers agree to a legislative remedy by the end of the year in order to comport with the will of the voters and to avoid further confusion. Justice delayed is justice denied. It is long past time that New Jerseyans enjoyed the same freedoms as those in many other states and are able to legally possess cannabis without the threat of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.”