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The Stalemate Over Legalization Continues in New Jersey

Lawmakers have so far been unable to convince Gov. Murphy to sign legislation that would legalize Cannabis.

Chase Fade, Unsplash

Despite voters overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment legalizing Cannabis last November, marijuana is still not legal in New Jersey. State lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy are in a protracted stalemate over New Jersey’s Cannabis legislation. 

Murphy has refused to sign the bills passed by lawmakers, which would decriminalize marijuana and establish the state’s legal framework, until penalties for underage Cannabis use are included. 

Last month, lawmakers drafted a “cleanup” bill that addressed the governor’s concerns, but the revised legislation fell apart before a vote could be held when several representatives who objected to adding the penalties, pulled their support. 

Some lawmakers are attempting to salvage the legislation with another “cleanup” bill. The latest includes escalating penalties for underage use, starting with a $50 fine for people 18-20 possessing pot, and written warnings for people under 18.

The revised bill also includes penalties for selling pot to underage people, starting with a $250 fine and escalating up to a $1000 fine for subsequent offenses. Buying Cannabis for someone under the age of 21 is punishable by a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

Of course, this being New Jersey, nothing can be easy. The revised bill must make it through committee and receive approval from the Senate and Assembly by February 18 to qualify for Murphy’s approval. At the moment, the revised bill remains in committee. If it fails to pass the legislature by the 18th, the governor will have to either sign or veto the original bills.

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 people have been arrested for minor marijuana possession in New Jersey since voters legalized pot on Election Day in November. A single signature can end the arrests. Unfortunately, residents can’t count on that happening.