New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed three bills into law that will legalize marijuana in the state after voters approved the measures in last November’s election.
Under the new laws, as the Asbury Park Press notes, marijuana will be legal for adults over 21 within the state of New Jersey, and adults will be allowed to possess up to six ounces of weed. A regulated marketplace will also be set up to allow state-licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis, though it could take more than a year for sales to begin.
“New Jersey’s broken, indefensible marijuana laws — which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise — are no more,” Murphy said at a press conference. “In their place are laws that will usher in a new industry, based on equity, which will reinvest dollars into communities — laws which promote both public health by promoting safe cannabis products and public safety by allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.”
While 65 percent of New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved legalization last November, state legislators still had some work to do to finalize the specific rules and regulations. The final law, for instance, stipulates that some marijuana-related activities will still be illegal, such as distribution and growing without a license.
There was also much debate over ensuring that a significant portion of the tax revenue from legal marijuana sales went to social justice initiatives that benefitted the largely black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Ultimately, legislators decided that 60 percent of tax revenue will be distributed to 20 “impact zones” — cities and towns in New Jersey where old marijuana laws were heavily enforced.
New Jersey’s vote to legalize marijuana was part of another big wave of legalization efforts across the United States, with voters in Arizona and Montana also approving legalization efforts (South Dakota did as well, though a judge struck down the measure earlier this month; an appeal is expected). Since then, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would move forward with legalization, while Virginia lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana earlier this month.
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