One of the most common charges people face today is drug possession. The penalties differ depending on the type of drug and quantity the person is accused of having. If the quantity is sufficient, the person may be charged with “possession with intent to distribute”, which means possessing the drug with the intent to either sell it or give it to other people.
On February 22, 2021, Governor Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act. This new law was the implementation of the ballot initiative in which New Jersey voters voted in favor of marijuana legalization.
The new marijuana law provides that it is now legal to possess up to six ounces of marijuana.
he following article from NJ.com on February 23, 2021 answers most questions.
Q: What does each law do?
A: The new legalization law (S21) establishes rules and regulations for a 21 and older marijuana industry in New Jersey.
The companion laws decriminalizes (A1897) marijuana for adults and establishes written warnings for those under 21 caught with the drug (S3454).
Q: So when can I buy legal weed? When will the dispensaries where they’ll be sold open?
A: It could take at least a year before legal sales begin. Some marijuana industry insiders say early 2022 is likely. Murphy estimated Monday it could take months — maybe about six — to set up the industry. The law doesn’t specify when the dispensaries will open.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana dispensaries can begin selling to the public once they certify they have enough marijuana for the state’s nearly 100,000 patients. Several of the current companies plan to open new dispensaries this spring or expand their growing capacity, which would help to ease burdens on the current 13 dispensaries.
A court ruling from last week could also speed the process up. An appeals court removed a year-long moratirium placed on the state Department of Health’s review of medical marijuana license applicants. The agency could issue up to 24 new licenses in coming months.
But until the medical marijuana program grows significantly, legal sales at those dispensaries are on hold.
Q: Where can I smoke weed?
A: Smoking or using marijuana in public places will be prohibited. But the legalization law will also allow for consumption lounges (think: a bar, but for marijuana). These, along with dispensaries, will take time to open.
Q: How many dispensaries will there be?
The not-yet seated Cannabis Regulatory Commission will license future dispensaries. While there’s no limit on the number of storefronts, the law does limit the number of new licenses to grow marijuana to 37 during the first two years of legalization.
That will determine the amount of marijuana first available to customers and may dictate the needed number of dispensaries.
Q: How much weed can I have? Can I be arrested still?
A: The decriminalization law allows people to possess up to six ounces of marijuana without facing arrests or fines. This takes effect even though there are no dispensaries open now to sell legal marijuana. Decriminalization also provides a mechanism for pending possession charges to be dismissed.
Q: Can I grow marijuana at home?
A: No, the current laws do nothing to allow the growing of marijuana. When asked Monday about home grow, Murphy said, “we’re going to go with the bills I just signed, we’ll leave it at that.”
Sen. Gerry Cardinale, R-Bergen, who died on Saturday, early this month introduced a bill to allow people to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.
Q: Can I buy edibles?
A: Yes, the sale of certain edible products is permitted. But the law bans companies from making them into shapes of characters, people, animals, or as trademarked products that children may mistake for regular candy.
It also dictates how products should be packaged and labeled to show their THC content.
Q: What happens if I’m under 21 and caught with marijuana?
A: Murphy signed a third bill Monday to do away with arrests and fines for those younger than 21 caught with marijuana. It takes effect immediately.
Instead, young people will receive warnings that escalate. Upon a first offense, it goes only to them. A second offense would involve a parent if the person is younger than 18 and a third would include a referral to community programs for drug education and treatment.
This law also changes the penalties for underage drinking,and has police issue only warnings to those caught with alcohol.
Q: Could I lose my job for smoking weed?
A: Employees will have wide protections under the new law, but they aren’t absolute.
The law bars an employer from firing or refusing to hire a person who uses marijuana in their free time. But it does allow employers who have “reasonable suspicion” a worker has gotten high during work to drug test them and ultimately fire or discipline them if the test proves positive.
No widely-used and accepted physical drug tests for marijuana can detect real time intoxication. Instead, they highlight the presence of marijuana in the body, sometimes days or weeks after a person last consumed.
The law also allows an employer to do random, regular or pre-employment screening, but it must include a “scientifically reliable” test of blood, urine or saliva paired with a physical evaluation to determine if the employee is currently impaired, as well as a physical examination by an employee who undergoes training to spot marijuana impairment.
Those people must be trained over time, and the rollout of this piece of the law will come with more rules and regulations from the regulatory commission. For now, the protections lie in limbo, experts say.
Q: What will I have to pay in taxes?
A: Customers will pay a 7% sales tax and a up to a 2% municipal tax on marijuana sales.
The law includes a sliding tax to be paid by cannabis growers. It will rise from $10 an ounce to up to $60 an ounce as the price of marijuana falls overtime.
Those taxes could are likely to be passed onto customers in the cost per ounce.
Q: Can I come from New York or Pennsylvania to buy marijuana?
A: Yes, anyone over 21 in the Garden State can purchase marijuana from dispensaries. That’s what many hope will happen, generating more tax revenue for New Jersey but also driving business to local restaurants, shops and gas stations. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently ramped up efforts to legalize marijuana.
But visitors who buy in New Jersey can’t legally take it back home, due to federal prohibition that blocks interstate travel with marijuana. This will likely be difficult to enforce with the high traffic between New Jersey and its neighbors.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
Amanda Hoover may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj.