Recreational marijuana has officially been legalised in New Jersey after voters overwhelmingly approved the move last year.
It comes more than three years after Governor Phil Murphy first campaigned to legalise the drug in 2017, at which time lawmakers failed to receive enough votes in the state Senate to support the motion.
Officials decided to let residents have their say by putting it to vote on the ballot last November, and the legalisation received a wealth of support with approval from 67% of voters.
Lawmakers then had to pass a bill setting out the regulation of the drug, and on Monday, February 22, Murphy signed three bills to officially legalise and regulate marijuana.
The new rules state that marijuana can be sold at state-licensed dispensaries, and that people older than 21 are legally allowed to carry up to six ounces of marijuana.
Commenting on the legalisation of the drug, Murphy said:
Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalisation of adult-use cannabis.
Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of colour, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible.
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.
Murphy initially declined to sign the bills unless the legislature established penalties for people under the age of 21 found to be in possession of marijuana, prompting a tense standoff between the two parties, Axios reports.
With just 20 minutes left for Murphy to sign two of the bills, the legislature ultimately agreed and cleared the way for the signing to go ahead.
The governor stated that the marijuana industry will bring ‘equity and economic opportunity… while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters.’
Murphy added: ‘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.’
Dianna Houenou, who will chair the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), expressed her excitement to build on the medical marijuana program, adding: ‘It’s an honour to be part of this historic movement in New Jersey.’
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]