Legislation to Provide for Infrastructure Regulation of Recreational Cannabis Use Becomes Law After NJ Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Legalization Ballot Question Nov. 3, 2020
On November 3, 2020, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question, by roughly 67 percent, which asked to amend the State constitution to provide for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. Finalizing the over 200-page legislation that would provide the infrastructure for cannabis regulation, the Governor signed into law on Monday A-21 that aims to set new, unprecedented guidelines in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.
The sponsors of the new law, Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake, Angela McKnight, Joseph Danielsen, and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements:
“We’re moving closer to the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “So much time, effort, and thought have gone into this legislation. We’ve continued conversations, for what I believe, has produced a stronger piece of legislation with a focused eye toward social justice and equity. This is the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity, social justice for marijuana possession, and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”
“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). “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities. We have the opportunity here to also right the wrongs in our society in regards to past criminal possession of cannabis. No matter where you stand in the legalized marijuana debate, there has been a clear understanding that minorities within our urban communities have been hit hardest in the so-called War on Drugs. During this entire campaign for legalization, there has been one united vocal stance: There was harm done in the past and it must be corrected.”
“This new law includes real, enterprising opportunities for New Jersey communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission that requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex). “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the legislation remains imperative.”
“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use. We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization.”
“This has been a long time coming in our State, “ said Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen (D-Somerset, Middlesex, who chairs the Assembly Federal Relations and Oversight Reform Committee led the discussion on the bill in today’s hearing. “Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation. We cannot fairly, or effectively provide regulation without ensuring these communities stay at the forefront of the conversation.”
“New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey. Today, we move on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation and statewide stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades. Our work on refining this legislation aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use.”
A full copy of the legislation can be found here. Here are several key points of the bill:
- Personal Rights – Legalizing the consumption, transportation, and possession of cannabis for personal use by persons age 21 and older of up to one ounce. Public consumption would remain unlawful.
- Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers- Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people, and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the contents of the product.
- Reduces burden on the court system- The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.
- Creates Jobs, Economic Driver- Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.
- Opens the job market to more residents- By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.
- Promotes Social Equity- Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities, and NJ veterans a seat at the table.
- Impact Zones – Impact Zones are select priority municipalities for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to issue licenses to residents in the Zones. There is established a 25% set-aside for applicants residing in these zones which were established based on four criteria: population size; marijuana arrests; crime index; and rate of unemployment.
- Social Equity Excise Fee – The Cannabis Regulatory Commission would be permitted to impose an additional Social Equity Excise Fee upon cannabis cultivator’s sale or transfer of cannabis to support social equity programs and reinvest into communities negatively impacted by discriminatory drug laws and enforcement.