Is Legal Marijuana on the Horizon in New Jersey?
This week, the New Jersey State Senate began serious discussions about the potential legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. Democratic Senator Nicholas Scutari is sponsoring a bill that would officially legalize marijuana possession in New Jersey, as well as the sale of marijuana to adults ages 21 or older. A State Senate Committee is now working through the details of how to regulate what may become a billion-dollar New Jersey marijuana industry.
As of today, marijuana is an illegal controlled dangerous substance, classified as a Schedule I drug according to the New Jersey Drug Schedule. This means that it is deemed to have a high potential for abuse; and no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision. As a result, anyone found in possession of any amount of marijuana can be charged with a criminal offense. However, legal pot may be on the horizon in New Jersey if the aforementioned bill, based on Colorado’s marijuana system, is passed. So what does Bill S3195 propose and what could it mean for you?
How New Jersey Marijuana Policy May Change
The first major change under the proposed legal marijuana policy involves the decriminalization of marijuana possession up to 50 grams. Specifically, individuals would be permitted to possess up to:
- 1 ounce of dried marijuana
- 16 ounces of edible marijuana products
- 72 ounces of marijuana/cannabis in liquid form;
- and 7 grams of marijuana concentrate.
It would also allow anyone who was previously arrested for possession of marijuana to expunge their records immediately, meaning the applicable waiting periods would be waived.
As for the marijuana industry, the bill would create a Division of Marijuana Enforcement within the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which would be responsible for enacting regulations and enforcing said regulations among marijuana manufacturers and distributors. It would also enact a sales tax on transactions involving recreational marijuana that would start at 7 percent in year one, increase to 10 percent in year two, and gradually increase in 5 percent increments each year until it tops out at 25 percent. There would be no taxes on medical marijuana and State-approved medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to start selling cannabis products first. The one thing the bill doesn’t allow? People can’t grow their own cannabis, a fact that has garnered significant opposition since it was introduced.
Arguments For and Against Legal Marijuana in New Jersey
There are a variety of groups supporting marijuana legalization in new Jersey, including New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. Supporters of legalizing marijuana argue that the state could accumulate massive tax revenues from the sale of recreational marijuana to New Jersey residents and visitors. They also say that a thriving marijuana industry would generate an economic boost and create thousands of new jobs. Lastly, arguments for legal marijuana cite that law enforcement budgets could be lowered and authorities could target more violent, threatening criminal activities, as opposed to spending time and effort pursuing non-violent “drug offenders” who exhibit no criminal behavior other than possessing small amounts of weed.
On the other hand, opponents of legal marijuana in New Jersey argue that it is a “gateway drug,” which leads to drug abuse and addiction to stronger substances such as heroin and prescription drugs. Some have predicted that the pharmaceutical industry will come out most strongly against marijuana legalization, as well as drug rehab centers, who clearly have the most to lose from a financial standpoint. Another argument against legalizing marijuana is that it will lead to more instances of people driving under the influence of drugs (DUI). Notably, New Jersey police officers do not have an approved device like the Alcotest 7110 breathalyzer machine, which is used to test blood alcohol content in DWI cases, to accurately assess if a person is driving under the influence of marijuana.
Marijuana in NJ as a Race Issue
Many have argued that enforcement of marijuana laws in New Jersey adversely impact people of color more than any other group. In fact, extensive research supports this contention. According to a recent study from the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, black residents are 3-times more likely to be arrested and convicted on marijuana charges when compared with white residents. A municipal prosecutor in Clark, New Jersey, Attorney Jon-Henry Barr, recently spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying “Legalize and regulate it like we do with tobacco and alcohol. I have seen too many lives ruined or damaged. I’ll continue to enforce the law — that is my sworn duty. But I will not endorse the law.”
What’s Next for Marijuana Possession and Distribution in New Jersey?
This week’s hearings are just the beginning of a long road toward marijuana reform in New Jersey, and the outcome remains unclear. The new governor who will replace Chris Christie, a vigorous opponent of marijuana legalization, will have a significant impact on the direction and ultimate determination of New Jersey’s policy on marijuana. Until then, if you or someone you love has been charged with possession of marijuana, marijuana distribution, or possession of pot with intent to distribute, you need an experienced New Jersey marijuana defense attorney who can mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. At The Tormey Law Firm, we have successfully resolved thousands of marijuana cases in courts across New Jersey. Call now to discuss your case, find answers, and begin building your best defense. We are available 24/7 at (201)-556-1570 and consultations are always provided free of charge.
For additional information regarding the issue of legal marijuana in New Jersey, view the following resources: