marijuana

What Can, Can't You Do With Cannabis in New Jersey Now?

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New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market is now voter approved and in effect under legislation signed last week by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

New Jersey residents voted by a 2-to-1 margin in November to join 14 other states and the District of Columbia with legal marijuana for recreational use. Only those 21 and older can legally possess and use the drug. But there are a lot of ins and outs to consider.

So what can you and can’t you do with marijuana?

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Here’s a closer look at New Jersey’s emerging marijuana reality:

WHEN AND WHERE CAN I BUY MARIJUANA?

Nowhere just yet. Even though the laws Murphy signed took effect immediately, the new Cannabis Regulatory Commission has to set up rules and dole out licenses. All of that could take up to six months, according to the governor and industry experts.

SO WHAT’S LEGAL, THEN?

It’s no longer a violation of state law to have 6 ounces (170 grams) or less of marijuana or about three-fifths of an ounce (17 grams) of hashish. It’s not a crime any longer to be under the influence of marijuana or hashish, or to possess marijuana paraphernalia or to be in possession of it while operating a car. The state still has laws against driving under the influence of drugs.

WHAT IF I’M UNDER 21?

The first offense is a written warning. The law makes it clear that the person’s parent or guardian is not to be notified. The second offense is a written warning along with information on drug treatment services.

Police must provide a copy of the second warning to those under 18, along with a notice about the first offense as well.

The third offense carries a written warning again along with a referral to drug treatment services. Parents and guardians would also be notified of a third warning.

CAN I GROW MY OWN?

No. Home-grow was sought by advocates, but ultimately was left out of the final legislation. Murphy on Monday declined to back another measure that would authorize residents to grow the marijuana plant at home.

WHAT HAPPENS TO MY GUILTY PLEA OR VERDICT?

The decriminalization law Murphy signed assigns the Administrative Office of the Courts the task of vacating guilty verdicts, pleas and placements in diversionary programs in cases before Feb. 22, 2021, which was the day Murphy signed the legislation.

The law will also vacate convictions, remaining sentences, ongoing supervision or unpaid court fines for those convicted under previous law.

The attorney general’s office has a list online of the former crimes affected by decriminalization, including possession and being under the influence of marijuana.

WHAT IF MY CASE IS PENDING?

Prosecutors have to seek dismissals of any pending charges in cases involving the one-time crimes, under the attorney general’s guidance.

WHAT IS STILL ILLEGAL?

You can’t possess more than 6 ounces of marijuana in the state. If you do, it’s a fourth-degree crime, which could carry up to an 18-month sentence.

Distributing large amounts of marijuana is still criminal under New Jersey law.

Distributing 25 pounds (11 kilograms) or more of marijuana or 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms) or more of hashish is a first-degree crime, the most serious under state law. For distributing 5 pounds or more of marijuana or 1 pound (.5 kilograms) of hashish, you face second-degree charges. Distributing a pound of marijuana or 5 grams (.17 ounces) of hashish or less is a third-degree crime.

Sales of small amounts of marijuana — meaning an ounce or less — carry a written warning for the first offense. A second offense carries a court summons on the charge of a fourth-degree crime.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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