The last two years of 2021 and 2022 were pivotal for the cannabis industry in New Jersey, as 2021 saw the legalization of recreational cannabis and the regulation of cannabis businesses in the state, and 2022 was the first full year with these new regulations in place.
In August of 2021, New Jersey's sitting Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law, which legalized recreational cannabis use and decriminalized cannabis possession for all NJ residents who are at least 21 years old. In addition, this law allows for, and provides regulation on, retail and wholesale cannabis businesses operating within the state.
Understanding New Jersey's Cannabis Regulations
Most NJ residents would agree that New Jersey has become a major hub for cannabis production and cultivation in a relatively short period of time. With the recent legalization, decriminalization, and regulation, the state is poised to become one of the largest legal markets for marijuana in the country. Cannabis law offices have also began opening in the state, though there are still only a handful of cannabis law attorneys in New Jersey, and even across the country.
But what does this legislation mean for marijuana users? What are the rules and regulations surrounding cannabis growth and possession in New Jersey in 2022 and beyond? How can businesses potentially capitalize on this newly legalized industry while ensuring they remain compliant with state laws and regulations? Understanding this legislation and answering these questions are important for individuals looking to recreationally enjoy cannabis products and businesses planning on providing the products to these individuals.
What Does Cannabis Legalization in New Jersey Mean for Casual Marijuana Users?
According to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, cannabis legalization in New Jersey means that adults 21 and over can legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana (or 2 ounces if they live more than 25 miles from any land border). Additionally, NJ residents who are at least 21 years old can also grow up to 6 mature plants at home, with no more than 3 plants flowering at any given time. It is important to note that these legalities do not apply when traveling out of state or driving across state lines though, as cannabis is still not Federally legal. Furthermore, each municipality was allowed to set its own regulations that supercede the state law, so it is important to check each specific municipality's laws prior to possessing, growing, consuming, or transacting cannabis or cannabis products.
New Jersey residents will also be able to legally purchase marijuana products from licensed retailers with sales possible at pharmacies having started this year in 2022, and in more places starting next year in 2023. The sale prices will be set by the Department of Health, and prices and taxes could vary based on location. For example, municipalities may decide to regulate higher prices and higher taxes, and prices may fluctuate in certain areas based on demand levels. The various different strains and types of cannabis plants will also affect pricing in conjunction with any state and local regulations.
How is New Jersey Regulating Cannabis Growth & Possession in 2022?
Cannabis legalization in New Jersey means that casual marijuana users in New Jersey can legally possess, consume, and grow cannabis for themselves and others. Some important rules and regulations regarding cannabis growth and possession in New Jersey in 2022 are as follow:
Cannabis will be legal for personal consumption only
Any resident who is at least 21 years old can grow up to six flowering plants for personal consumption per household individually - however, only up to 12 flowering plants can be grown in total for any single household
Any flowering plants being grown must be kept at home or offsite, only if in a locked location
Flowering plants must also be kept out of sight from children under the age of 18, and other individuals are not allowed to have access to the plants - only the individual growing them for personal consumption
The maximum amount of dried flower that can be possessed at any given time is one ounce, or 28.35 grams, though it is important to note that the possessor is required to use heightened discretion when in possession of amounts approaching this limit - brandishing or flashing cannabis in an amount close to or at this limit could still result in criminal possession charges
The maximum amount of hashish oil that can be possessed at any given time is also limited to 8 grams, though this varies by municipality
It is important for New Jersey residents to familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations prior to making any decisions around possessing or consuming marijuana or other cannabis-based products, especially since many of the regulations may vary from one NJ municipality to the next.
Things to Keep in Mind Regarding New Jersey's Cannabis Regulations
While the recent cannabis regulation law signaled a win for cannabis supporters and recreational users, there are still several important things to keep in mind before considering consuming or possessing cannabis in the state of NJ.
For one, selling or 'dealing' marijuana and other cannabis products is still illegal and punishable by jail time in most cases. Additionally, while consuming, possessing, and even growing cannabis are all legalized under the recent legislation, there are several additional rules and regulations set forth by state officials to be aware of. These include the following, among many others:
New Jersey state law prohibits smoking (which includes conventional and electronic smoking devices), and otherwise consuming cannabis products in public places
State law also prohibits the consumption or use of cannabis products around or near minors under the age of 18 years old
The state prohibits individuals from giving away more than an ounce of cannabis flower or cannabis related products during a 24 hour period, though some municipalities enforce stricter policies around giving away cannabis
It is important to note that the state and its municipalities have also enacted many other policies to protect NJ residents from situations that could arise from the new legalization, and is the sole responsibility of the individual to remain aware of the various regulations and laws in each jurisdiction across the state.
New Jersey's Cannabis Regulations in Summary
The passage of New Jersey’s marijuana decriminalization bill last year in 2021 means that possessing smaller amounts of marijuana or cannabis will no longer be punishable as a criminal offense. While the law does not make it legal for everyone in New Jersey to possess marijuana under all circumstances, it does allow individuals to possess up to an ounce of cannabis flower and up to eight grams of hashish oil on their person or in their immediate possession without the result of arrest or other prosecution.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act took many years to come to fruition after years of debate on whether cannabis should remain illegal in the state. As recently as 2015, then Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that made possession of fewer than just 50 grams punishable by 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $200. However, this subject came to vote in 2018, and this time voters rejected the measure by a slim, but decisive 54% to 46% margin.
The latest act was approved in August of 2021 by an even more decisive margin of 64% to 34%. While most NJ residents seem to agree that the state should decriminalize cannabis possession, many residents remain concerned about how legalization will affect communities that have been disproportionately affected by arrests for cannabis-related crimes. All of this legislation is fairly new, so if you’re more than just an average recreational user interested in consuming and growing cannabis for personal use, it may be best to wait and see how the legislation matures in the coming years.
Some rules can become clearer with time, and mistakes made without having a clear understanding of the law can carry costly consequences with them – not only financially costly, but some mistakes could also carry costly legal ramifications and even jail time. In the meantime, consulting an experienced cannabis attorney in NJ could offer some peace of mind and expertise around this new legislation. Luckily one of the nation's leading cannabis law firms is right in your backyard! The vigilant cannabis law attorneys at Sanvenero & Cittadino specialize in New Jersey's cannabis legislation, and they consult cannabis entrepreneurs nationwide due to the lack of expertise in this area of the law.
Contact our cannabis lawyers today if you have any questions surrounding current or future cannabis legislation.