Cannabis Is Now Legal In New Jersey So What Does That Mean For You?

When a formerly illegal drug is now deemed legal for consumption, what does this really mean? Let the Criminal Defense Attorneys of The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot help you understand what this new cannabis legalization means and what it doesn’t mean. 

Cannabis is now legal in the state of New Jersey

In February of 2021, New Jersey’s Governor, Phil Murphy, signed three bills that effectively legalized cannabis under certain conditions in the state of New Jersey. The law, which went into immediate effect, created a two-tier framework that, while it did decriminalize many types of cannabis and cannabis-related activities, perhaps also unintentionally has caused some confusion about what the law actually means. 

What is the two-tier framework for cannabis laws in New Jersey?

The two-tier framework is designed to clarify certain aspects of cannabis legalization, which are distinguished as “regulated cannabis” and “marijuana and hashish.” These categories are designed as follows. 

Regulated cannabis

Under certain conditions, as defined by the newly formed Cannabis Regulatory Commission, certain cannabis products are legal to be used, purchased, or sold under this new state law. This is why while the law went into immediate effect, specific details weren’t yet defined. Passage of the law triggered the need for the Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for creating and issuing the rules that will govern cannabis use in our state. 

Marijuana and hashish

Now this is where it might get confusing for folks. You see, any form of cannabis that is not regulated, no matter if it is recreational or medical, will be considered “marijuana” or “hashish” under these new rules, which is a distinctly different category than “regulated cannabis.” 

The new law still defines marijuana and hashish as a dangerous controlled substance. However, the new laws aim to decriminalize these substances, and create more lenient penalties for distribution or possession, which will be based on its weight.

What is the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission?

The purpose of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is to create regulations for the recreational and medical cannabis industries. 

According to the CRC, a key component in successfully creating these new regulations is ensuring that they promote an inclusive and diverse cannabis industry. 

Many other states who have legalized cannabis have drawn criticism from those who feel that the legal, recreational cannabis industry has been dominated by white-owned investors and businesses, despite what many see as people of color disproportionately jailed for marijuana use, possession, or distribution. 

The CRC, through its intent to ensure that people of color, women, disabled veterans, and economically disadvantaged communities are represented in the New Jersey cannabis industry, hopes to avoid those same criticisms, the outcomes of which remain to be seen. 

Previous to the formation of the CRC, regulations related to the medical cannabis industry were overseen by the New Jersey Department of Health. 

Though the CRC will uphold many of the existing regulations for medical cannabis as created by the Department of Health, it will also be responsible for creating new rules for recreational use, and is focusing its work on what it sees as the four most important issues to center its work on. 

As published by the CRC, these four core issues are: 

Promoting public awareness of the new laws and making evidence-based, public-health driven recommendations

Protecting patient access to medical cannabis products to help treat their qualifying conditions

Establishing safeguards to promote the creation of safe products for patients and consumers

Promoting equity in growing the Garden State’s newest regulated industry

What do the new marijuana laws mean for pending marijuana cases in New Jersey?

According to the directive released by the New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, on the date that the new laws were signed by the Governor, prosecutors shall seek dismissal of a select set of pending charges related to marijuana and hashish for juveniles or adults who were charged or cited on or before February 21, 2021. 

In instances of multiple charges, only those select charges as identified in the directive may be eligible for dismissal. 

What does this mean for already resolved marijuana cases in New Jersey?

For cases that are already resolved, the answer as written is a bit more complicated to understand for those who are not fluent in legalese. 

That said, the directive is largely good news for those affected by certain marijuna or hashish charges. According to the same directive outlining the fate of pending cases, it is stated that 

For those cases already resolved, pursuant to the new decriminalization laws, the Administrative Office of the Courts will vacate by operation of law any guilty verdict, plea, placement in a diversionary program, or other entry of guilt on a matter where the conduct occurred prior to February 22, 2021. 

Also vacated will be any conviction, remaining sentence, ongoing supervision, or unpaid court-ordered financial assessment of any person who is or will be serving a sentence of incarceration, probation, parole or other form of community supervision as of February 22, 2021 as a result of the person’s conviction or adjudication of delinquency solely for the above listed charges.

So what, exactly, does this mean to the layperson. Well, let’s visit the term “vacated by operation of law.” Vacated essentially means “null and void” or “canceled” whereas “by operation of law” means “to be dictated by existing legal principles.”

Essentially, what this means is that the new law replaces the old law, and that if you have been convicted of certain, specific cannabis-related charges, that they are no longer valid. 

Still confused about New Jersey’s new cannabis laws? Need assistance or information regarding the dismissal of cannabis-related charges or convictions? Then call on The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot. For nearly half a century, our practice has passionately and effectively defended the rights of people just like you. You deserve counsel you can trust. Contact us today for your confidential consultation!