Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy (D) signed long-awaited bill on February 22nd that will allow for voter-approved cannabis legalization to proceed to launch. The signing comes after Murphy refused to approve a proposal due to a lack of penalties for underage cannabis consumption, prompting compromise from lawmakers responsible for finalizing the bill. 

The version of the bill signed on Monday will subject youth caught with cannabis in the state of New Jersey to a written warning. This comes as part of a “clean up” strategy that was approved by both the Judiciary Committee and on February 19th. 

Advocates Don’t Like Underage Penalties for Possession in New Jersey Cannabis Bill

While a written warning for youth is a minor consequence compared to the strict marijuana laws previously at work in the state of New Jersey, advocates say that the penalty threatens to perpetuate racially discriminatory enforcement practices that have plagued the war on drugs in the past. 

An amendment was also added so that 15 percent of all cannabis tax revenue is put towards “underage deterrence and prevention” of young people using marijuana. Governor Murphy hopes that by attending to concerns of underage consumption, the state can ensure that the marijuana legalization is exclusively obtainable for adult-use. 

Cannabis Marketplace to Take Shape in Coming Months 

While New Jersey got off to a fast start in legalizing cannabis as opposed to it’s Northeastern neighbors such as New York, delayed action due to the underage penalty concern has set implementation behind. Even with the setback, Gov. Murphy and newly named leader of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission Dianna Houenou say that New Jersey is turning the page to a new age of treatment of marijuana use. 

Starting immediately, individuals subjected to petty marijuana arrests will be able to get relief through pardoning and move forward. Additionally, dispensaries and marijuana retailers are primed to open across the state, opening the window for a potentially billion-dollar-per-year industry in New Jersey. 

Contributed by Jack Berning

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