TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law legislation to set up a recreational marijuana marketplace, decriminalize cannabis and loosen penalties for underage possession of the drug and alcohol.
The move comes more than three months since voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question to legalize adult use of the drug.
The Governor also signed S3454, clarifying marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.
"Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible," said Governor Murphy. "This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market. Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model.
Gov. Murphy went onto explain that by establishing a recreational marijuana marketplace, the economy statewide would flourish as new jobs would be created. It would also create equity in the communities while allowing law enforcement to focus on more important issues.
"Today, we’re taking a monumental step forward to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system, while building a promising new industry and standing on the right side of history. I’d like to thank the Legislature, advocates, faith leaders, and community leaders for their dedicated work and partnership on this critical issue," Gov. Murphy added.
New Jersey lawmakers are lauding the bill signing as "historical" and recognizing its place in the state's history.
"Today is a historic day, and I applaud Governor Murphy, the legislature, and the many advocates for racial and social justice whose leadership is ensuring that New Jersey is at the forefront of equitable marijuana legalization policy," said Senator Cory Booker.
"This is a historic reform that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy," said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the last-minute measure Monday to ease penalties on underage possession of both alcohol and marijuana as a way to secure Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature on legislation they had sent him in December.
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