The New Jersey governor eventually signs the legalization of cannabis


TRENTON, NJ (AP) – Legislation to establish a recreational marijuana market, decriminalize cannabis, and ease penalties for underage possession of drugs and alcohol was passed more than three months on Monday by Phil Murphy, governor of New Jersey After the overwhelming approval of voters, the law signed an election issue to legalize drug use among adults.

The Democratic-led Assembly and Senate passed the last-minute move on Monday to ease penalties for underage possession of alcohol and marijuana and to secure Murphy’s signature on the legislation they sent him in December.

“Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why I have been campaigning for the legalization of adult cannabis for years,” said the Democratic governor. “Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands of disproportionately colored people to be arrested each year in New Jersey for minor drug offenses is unjust and unjustifiable.”

He said the new market would take shape in the coming months.

Murphy faced a deadline to respond to the December action. He had previously said he supported the legislation but delayed signing for more than two months amid fears that young people of skin color could still be arrested, which goes against his goal of undoing the effects of the war on drugs in black communities close.

The governor had refused to explain in detail why he was late, but said he wanted to be sure that young people, especially people of color, did not “get entangled in our criminal justice system”.

The bill, which was passed on Monday, was a fulcrum for the governor’s support, according to lawmakers.

Legislation makes underage possession of alcohol and marijuana dependent on a written warning that escalates and includes notifying parents and referring them to nonprofits for subsequent violations.

Currently, underage drinking is punishable by a fine of up to $ 1,000 and a prison term of up to six months.

Part of the legislation provides that cities are no longer empowered to, among other things, enact ordinances with civil sanctions or fines in relation to underage ownership or violations of private property consumption.

It also increases the liability of suppliers of cannabis items to minors by making a third or subsequent violation a criminal offense for those with minor disruptions.

The impasse on marijuana resulted from an election question in November to amend the constitution to allow recreational cannabis for people aged 21 and over, approved with a 2: 1 margin by voters.

The delay has created widespread frustration.

“This process was a debacle from the start. The voters did their job, ”said Democratic Senator Paul Sarlo. He had spoken out against the legalization of marijuana, but supported decriminalization. He voted to pass the law on Monday because he said voters want lawmakers to go ahead and focus on COVID-19 relief.

Edmund DeVeaux, the head of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, said the lawmaker and governor are making the laws.

“Enough now. Only in New Jersey has the will of voters been so stubbornly ignored,” he said in a statement.

Some Republicans appeared appalled at the reduction in sentences.

“There are no consequences,” said GOP Senator Bob Singer. “We now say if you are caught underage it’s a free pass.”

Senator Nicholas Scutari, also a local prosecutor, denied the current penalties are working, saying the new law will keep young people – especially black youth – out of the criminal justice system.

The Market Square Legalization Act applies the state sales tax of 6.625%. 70% of the proceeds will go to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents were up to three times as likely to be exposed to marijuana as white residents.

Cities can levy a tax of up to 2% under the measure.

Also under the draft law, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission can levy a consumption tax, the amount of which depends on the cost per ounce of cannabis. The calculation contains four tax levels. So if cannabis is $ 350 or more, the tax per ounce is $ 10. That goes up to $ 60 an ounce if the retail price of the product is less than $ 250.

The number of licenses for cultivators is set at 37 for two years. The Senate didn’t push for limits, but the Assembly wanted the limits.

The decriminalization measure is necessary because, according to the legislature, the laws of the state make possession a crime despite the voter-approved change. The measure was adopted with broad support from both parties.

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Beth Edmonds