Democrat New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy Signs Laws Legalizing Marijuana

Phil Murphy signs legislation legalizing marijuana.
Twitter/@GovMurphy

Democrat New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Monday to set up a recreational marijuana marketplace, decriminalize pot, and loosen laws barring underage possession of cannabis and alcohol.

Murphy signed the legislation into law more than three months after voters approved a ballot question on legalizing the drug for adult use.

Murphy also tweeted that those arrested for “petty marijuana possession will be able to get relief and move forward.”

The majority-Democrat Senate and Assembly passed the last-minute measure Monday to loosen penalties on underage possession of marijuana and alcohol to secure Murphy’s signature on legislation they sent to his desk in December.

“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,” Murphy said.

“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,” he continued.

Murphy delayed acting on the December measures because he had concerns that young minorities could be arrested, which would go against his efforts to undo the war on drugs in black communities.

The legislation makes underage possession of marijuana and alcohol subject to written warnings for a first offense, then parental notification on a subsequent offense, and a referral to community services for multiple violations.

Currently, the law states underage drinking is subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in prison.

The marketplace legalization bill uses the state’s 6.625% sales tax and takes 70 percent of the proceeds to give to areas disproportionately affected by cannabis arrests.

Lawmakers say the decriminalization measure is necessary because state law makes possession a crime, despite the ballot amendment approved by the voters.

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