Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Monday legalizing cannabis for adults, delivering on a campaign promise that had led to years of inter-party disagreements.
The new law decriminalizes the possession of up to six ounces of marijuana and lessens the consequences for minors caught with it in their possession.
“There isn’t anyone who has supported these efforts who wouldn’t acknowledge this process has taken much longer than anticipated,” Murphy said during a news conference on Monday. “But certainly it is better to get things done right than fast.”
Even though Democratic leaders in the state’s government and two-thirds of New Jersey residents supported legalization, disagreements between Murphy and legislators over how to penalize minors caught with cannabis almost torpedoed the new legislation.
Legalization came after Murphy signed three separate bills; the first two — a legalization measure and a decriminalization bill — were passed by the New Jersey Legislature and sent to his desk in December.
New Jersey’s broken & indefensible marijuana laws are no more.
Today, I signed historic legislation to:
✅Legalize adult-use cannabis
✅Decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts
✅Limit the use of previous marijuana convictions
✅Create a regulated cannabis marketplace pic.twitter.com/Y2pCKSgcn5
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) February 22, 2021
Under the legalization bill, people 21 and younger caught with less than one ounce of cannabis would be charged with a misdemeanor disorderly persons offense.
The decriminalization bill, however, removed penalties for minors caught with marijuana.
The Legislature passed the third bill on Monday addressing penalties for underage offenders, and following its passage, Murphy signed all three into law.
While the decriminalization laws will take effect immediately, Murphy said, legalization may take up to six months since the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission must develop rules for dispensary and cultivation licenses.
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