legal marijuana in New Jersey
Photo by Richard T on Unsplash

In the last ten years, eighteen states have legalized recreational marijuana. In 2020, New Jersey residents voted to approve a new law to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in the state. However, laws regarding legal marijuana in New Jersey still have a long way to go before all residents can begin purchasing the product.

The initial rules and regulations for New Jersey’s marijuana law are extensive. The Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act now allows adults 21 and over to purchase and possess up to one ounce of legal marijuana in New Jersey. In addition to the age constraint, cannabis businesses and New Jersey residents must adhere to several other rules. Unlike many other states, it’s prohibited to grow cannabis at home. Established licensing categories support minorities and promote social equality, and only marijuana cultivators will have a licensing cap. There will be heavy taxes on marijuana sales. Products must also be in childproof packaging and clearly labeled with potential health risks. 

Since the laws regarding recreational marijuana were signed by Governor Murphy in March 2021, more than 70% of municipalities have banned the sale of cannabis. This opposition will delay the implementation of new marijuana regulations for a large majority of New Jersey.

Regardless of the specific rules, local authorities have the option to opt out of the new program to allow recreational marijuana businesses to operate in their county. If you are a New Jersey resident, this could impact how you obtain recreational marijuana when sales begin in 2022. So why have so many officials banned the sale of cannabis in their county?

Elected Officials are Banning Recreational Marijuana to Buy Themselves Time

Since the New Jersey cannabis industry is still in its infancy, many local officials are holding off on permitting the sale of legal recreational marijuana for the time being. Lack of state-level guidance at the outset has prevented many local officials from opting in for their counties. Since statewide regulations took months to outline, this shortened the timeline for local ordinances to be finalized.

However, many of these officials will likely reverse this decision in six months to a year. The initial decision to opt-out of the recreational marijuana program is surprising for many since the majority of voters in many counties helped pass the new law. However, while counties that opt-in to the program cannot opt-out for five years, those who opt-out can reverse their decision at any time. 

Having more time to evaluate and establish regulations allows local authorities to review statewide regulations and take their time establishing their local ordinances. Counties with medical marijuana dispensaries will be at an advantage for speedy enforcement. However, the quick turnaround for implementation may cause initial growing pains for those counties without medical marijuana establishments. Therefore, time and patience are essential for residents of counties who initially opted out of the program. 

Opposition to Legal Marijuana in New Jersey Still Exists

Despite more than 60% of New Jersey voters saying yes to legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana, many elected officials oppose the bill. Many local leaders oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana based on personal beliefs. These beliefs often fall in with their counties to some extent.

However, regardless of political or religious affiliation, there are other reasons legal marijuana is currently opposed. Many recreational marijuana businesses are coming from out of state, which creates a competitive market for local owners. Even with statewide regulations focused on supporting minority business owners, this poses a risk for small businesses trying to compete with established growers. Additionally, several local officials based their initial decision on regulations of other industries. Some authorities also hope to limit similar services, such as liquor stores. This is to curb the availability of vices in their county. 

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Opting Out Does Not Mean Residents Cannot Possess Marijuana

Local officials who have opted out of participation in the new law are only opting out from businesses operating in their counties. New Jersey residents over the age of 21 can carry up to one ounce of marijuana regardless of which county they reside in. 

Additionally, while local officials can prohibit businesses from operating in their county, they cannot prevent delivery services from running. If you live in the radius of a recreational marijuana dispensary, you may be able to order delivery services. That means many New Jersey residents will not have to commute far to obtain marijuana.

Find an Attorney Who Understands Legal Marijuana in New Jersey

The passing of legal marijuana laws in New Jersey has created many legal gray areas.  These gray areas are especially apparent for those involved in marijuana-related criminal cases. Under this legalization, marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense. However, it is still possible to be charged with a marijuana-related crime. These charges could include possessing more than the legal limit or driving under the influence of marijuana. It’s also illegal to grow marijuana plants at home. If you or a loved one are dealing with a marijuana-related charge, contacting a knowledgeable lawyer is crucial. 

Leon Matchin is an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options. The Law Offices of Leon Matchin have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Leon has experience with municipal and superior court cases. He can represent you in criminal-related proceedings in several New Jersey counties. Contact The Law Offices of Leon Matchin LLC for a free, no-obligation consultation at (833) 732-7320 or by emailing [email protected].