Governor Phil Murphy announced he has signed the adult-use cannabis referendum enabling bill, the decriminalization bill, and the clean-up bill. After great debate and negotiations that failed, the legislature passed the cannabis clean-up bill this morning.
“I signed three bills that will fulfill the promise of the constitutional amendment the people overwhelmingly of New Jersey supported three months ago by legalized adult-use cannabis and decriminalizing marijuana possession in small amounts, limiting the use of previous convictions, and carefully creating the cannabis regulatory marketplace that can to ben an economic boon to our state,” Murphy declared.
The legalization and decriminalization bills passed the New Jersey legislature on December 17th. However, it was not until after Christmas that Murphy signaled he was not happy with the bills that had passed and asked the legislature for a clean-up bill.
“I am grateful to all our legislative partners who put so much into this process,” he said. “And who kept working and talking even when things ground to a halt.”
Phil Murphy and Others Happy About Cannabis Legalization
Phil Murphy then thanked the Black and Latino Caucuses and respective chairs Ron Rice (D-Essex) and Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) along with Senators Nick Scutari, Teresa Ruiz, and Assembly members Quijano, Sumter, Wimberly, and “every legislator who either put their names to these bills or who supported it. A special shout out to Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and all members who voted for them in committee and on the floor.”
“I also want to thank all the allies across the spectrum of social justice,” he said.
“New Jersey’s and broken and indefensible marijuana laws which permanently stain the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise are no more,” Phil Murphy declared. “In their place are laws that will usher in a new industry based on equity and will reinvest dollars into communities.”
“Yes, we are fulfilling the will of voters while having common-sense measures,” Phil Murphy said. “This process has taken much longer than participated.”
“This legislation will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to our communities while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters,” he said. “Today, we’re taking a monumental step forward to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system while building a promising new industry and standing on the right side of history.”
“At long last, New Jersey is turning the page on our previous treatment of marijuana use,” said incoming Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) Chair Dianna Houenou. “I am excited to get to work building on the successes of the medical program and standing up the adult-use cannabis industry. It’s an honor to be part of this historic movement in New Jersey.”
“Today is a historic day, and I applaud Governor Murphy, the legislature, and the many advocates for racial and social justice whose leadership is ensuring that New Jersey is at the forefront of equitable marijuana legalization policy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to end the federal marijuana prohibition, so we can finally begin healing the wounds of decades of injustice,” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said.
“This is a historic reform that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement, and the state’s economy,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “We can now move forward to correct social injustices at the same time that marijuana is made legal for adults.”
“For the last fifty years, marijuana criminalization has been used as a tool to propel mass incarceration,” said Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson). “It has done immeasurable harm to Black and Brown communities around the country, and today we begin to right the ship here in New Jersey. I look forward to seeing the tangible impact this legislation has on our communities in the years to come.”
“I am proud to have been a driving force behind the most progressive decriminalization law in the country, and I am grateful to finally see it enacted,” said Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). “Every day, roughly 100 people in New Jersey are arrested for marijuana possession, this law is a move that offers individuals a second chance and ensures they do not become entangled in the criminal justice system.”
“This will usher in a new era of social justice by doing away with the failed policy that criminalized the use of marijuana,” said cannabis sponsor Senator Nick Scutari (D-Union).
“We’re moving closer to the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union).
“With legalization comes an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union).
“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson).
“This has been a long time coming in our State,” said Assembly Oversight Committee chair Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset). “Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation.”
Under A. 21, the CRC will oversee regulations to govern the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. The legislation further provides for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated impact zones, directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership, and contains critical employment protections for people.
A. 1897 will reform criminal and civil penalties for cannabis/marijuana and provide remedies for people currently facing certain marijuana charges. The bill prevents unlawful low-level distribution and possession offenses from being used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions. It provides certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. The bill also creates a pathway to cancel active sentences for certain offenses committed before enacting the enabling legislation.
The Governor also signed S3454 into law, clarifying penalties for marijuana and cannabis possession and consumption for individuals younger than 21 years old. The legislation corrects inconsistencies in A21 and A1897 concerning marijuana and cannabis penalties for those underage.