TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey officially became the 13th state to legalize recreational marijuana on Monday, with Gov. Phil Murphy enacting three bills implementing a voting question that was widely supported by voters last year.
New Jersey is the first northeast or mid-Atlantic state to avoid decades of arrests in favor of a program that would stop tens of thousands of arrests per year and revive a new cannabis industry that could be an economic boom for the state and region.
The only other states on the East Coast where marijuana is legal are Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
“New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws – which have permanently tarnished the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, disproportionately harmed communities of color and undermined justice at all levels , social or whatever – no longer, ”Murphy said. at a press conference on Monday.
“In their place, there are laws that will usher in a new industry, based on fairness, that will reinvest dollars in communities – laws that promote both public health by promoting safe cannabis products and safety.” by allowing law enforcement agencies to focus their resources on serious crimes. ,” he added.
Laws signed Monday allow the possession and use of marijuana by anyone over the age of 21 in the state of New Jersey, who can have up to 6 ounces of weed on them without incurring any penalties.
The laws also allow the purchase and sale of legal cannabis at state-approved dispensaries, although it can take well over a year before recreational sales even begin.
Certain marijuana offenses will remain criminal, including distributing drugs and growing cannabis plants without a license. New Jersey is the only state with legalized marijuana that doesn’t at least allow its medical marijuana patients to thrive, and joins Washington as the only state with no recreational cultivation.
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Recreational use of marijuana for adults is also legal in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and the United States. US territory of Guam, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In all, 47 states have some type of legality, ranging from recreational to medical use, with only Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska not offering public access programs, according to the NCSL.
More than two-thirds of New Jersey voters supported a marijuana voting question in November, but the constitutional amendment proposed by the referendum could not go into effect until those rules and regulations were in place.
In New Jersey, the campaign to legalize marijuana was largely carried out as a social justice-driven mission.
The ‘vote yes’ campaign was led by officials from the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, which ran digital ads – live events were dismissed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – educating voters on the negative effects of simple low-level marijuana possession arrest and the millions of tax dollars spent to prosecute such cases.
“Our state’s cannabis laws may set a new standard for what justice can look like, with the removal of felons for possession and an unprecedented portion of the revenue dedicated to fighting the damage caused by the war on drugs, ”said Amol Sinha, executive director of ACLU-NJ. “This is a new beginning – and the culmination of years of advocacy – and we have to keep in mind that this is just the beginning.
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“The signing of these laws sets in motion the next phase of this effort: working tirelessly to transform the principles of legalization into greater racial and social justice in New Jersey.”
According to FBI crime data, New Jersey police departments made more than 33,000 arrests for marijuana in 2017, the ninth rate of marijuana arrests per capita in the country, according to the ACLU.
And in New Jersey, blacks were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites, despite similar rates of use among races, the ACLU said.
“The failed drug war has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, disproportionately affecting black and brown communities and hurting families in New Jersey and our country,” said US Senator Cory Booker , D-New Jersey, in a statement. “Today is a historic day.”
Contributor: Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY.
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