The New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Amendment (S2703/A4497) amends the state constitution to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It also legalizes the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail cannabis. The constitutional amendment will take effect on January 1, 2021. On December 17, 2020, the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation to legalize and decriminalize marijuana in the Garden State. Bills A21/S21 legalizes marijuana in New Jersey. The bill, S2535/ A1897, decriminalize up to 6 ounces of cannabis and downgrades the penalty for the sale of up to 1 ounce with a warning for a first offense, followed by a charge of a fourth-degree crime for subsequent instances.
According to the New York Times, the decriminalization bill would become law on Jan. 1, 2021, but it would take about 18 months before dispensaries could open in the state. The bill now heads to Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy for final approval.
None of the bills addresses home cultivation of marijuana. Growing weed without a state-issued permit still can result in felony charges for gardeners or basement growers.
Proponents of the law say that it is an important milestone in achieving greater racial and social justice in New Jersey and ending the war on drugs. A study produced by the ACLU of New Jersey found Black and brown people were over three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than white people, even though they consume cannabis at similar rates.
Opponents argue that allowing recreational use would lead to more impaired individuals behind the wheel, putting both drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk. A study done by the Governor's Highway Safety Association found that seven states that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a 16.4% increase in pedestrian fatalities vs. other states without legalization reported a 5.8% decrease in pedestrian fatalities over the same period.