Story at a glance
- New Jersey will officially legalize recreational marijuana on April 21.
- Adults 21-years-old and older will be legally allowed to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis.
- Back in 2020, New Jersey residents overwhelmingly voted to amend the state’s constitution to legalize the possession, use and cultivation of marijuana.
Two years after New Jersey residents voted to amend their state’s constitution in order to legalize marijuana, adult recreational cannabis sales and use will begin next week.
New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) announced beginning April 21 adults 21-years-old and older will be able to purchase cannabis and cannabis products legally without a medical card. The state will start issuing licenses to seven alternative treatment centers to also begin selling recreational cannabis as well as 13 other retail dispensaries.
The announcement comes two years after New Jersey voters were presented a question on their November ballots that asked if they would support a constitutional amendment to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons 21 and older and the cultivation, processing and sale of retail marijuana.
The New Jersey public overwhelmingly supported the motion—with 67 percent of voters indicating “yes.”
“New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly to have access to adult-use cannabis and it is now here. I am very proud of the work the Commission has done over the past year to open the market. We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of NJ-NRC.
Residents over the age of 21 will be legally able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of recreational cannabis when licensed dispensaries open.
New Jersy has attempted to address equity in the state’s new cannabis market, acknowledging that historically Black and brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by drug laws. Any dispensary that wants to open in New Jersey will be assessed on their diversity in hiring and management, support for community programs and the percentage of minority-owned vendors or suppliers they contract with.
Other states have made similar attempts when legalizing recreational marijuana, like Illinois which legalized the drug in 2020 and prioritized “social equity applicants,” for those interested in opening up a dispensary. The state defined a social equity applicant as someone who has lived in a disproportionately impacted area hit by drug enforcement, and someone who has been arrested for, or convicted of a cannabis-related offense, among other criteria.
New Jersey also established the Marijuana Decriminalization Law last year, which provided for the dismissal, vacating and expungement of certain marijuana cases. An estimated 360,000 cases qualify for expungement in New Jersey.
Almost every single state in the country has legalized some form of medical or recreational marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) — except for Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas.
At the federal level, cannabis remains classified as a schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Multiple White House administrations have attempted to change that, as recently as this month when Democrats announced they were working on legislation called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.
The bill would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and is expected to be introduced this summer.
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