June 17, 2024
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What Do the New Jersey Marijuana Regulations Mean?

In November, 2020, the voters of New Jersey by a significant majority decided in favor of the legalization of marijuana. Following the public’s decision to support the legalization of marijuana, the legislation that decriminalized cannabis use was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

The new laws, entitled the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act and the Marijuana Decriminalization Act, provide for both civil and criminal justice reforms as it relates to the decriminalization of the use of marijuana and hashish in lower quantities; expungement relief and its impact in the workplace. It also establishes a commission to regulate the sale and distribution of cannabis as a business in the marketplace and to curtail the illegal sale of marijuana.

Under these new laws, recreational possession and use of marijuana of six ounces or less and possession of 17 grams or less of hashish and use of drug paraphernalia are now permitted. Notwithstanding these provisions, the possession and use with the intent to manufacture marijuana and hashish is a violation of the law.

The prior laws addressing possession and use of marijuana and alcohol by individuals under age 21 have also been changed by the new law. Underage possession of marijuana and alcohol are now subject to a written warning, fines, parental notification and referral to community services for subsequent violations of the law.

As a result of the legalization of marijuana, the police cannot utilize the odor of marijuana, hashish or burnt marijuana as a basis for the search of the motor vehicle or to arrest that individual, unless there is another violation of the law. The police are still required to perform certain tests in order to charge an individual with being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While the legality of marijuana and hashish is permitted, the owner of a property, including a multi-family dwelling unit, condominium or mobile home, may prohibit the smoking and vaping of these substances and drug paraphernalia on their property. In addition, the new law also has an impact upon employment, where an employer shall not be permitted from considering an individual’s prior arrest, charge or conviction of manufacturing, distribution or possession of marijuana or hashish or drug paraphernalia in the hiring or in the advancement of employees in the workplace. Employment decisions made considering these prior offenses can be subject to a claim for discrimination to be adjudicated in the courts.

Further, the legality of marijuana also impacts applications for mortgages, where the mortgage company is prohibited from considering the applicant’s prior arrest, charge or conviction for the manufacturing, distribution and possession of marijuana and hashish as a basis to reject the mortgage application or renewal application for a loan or for a mortgage. The new law also extends to housing applications and discrimination in housing being prohibited by consideration of the applicant’s prior arrest, charge and conviction for manufacturing, distribution and possession of marijuana and hashish in the accepting of housing applications. Failure to abide by these provisions creates a basis for actions to be filed for discrimination in the New Jersey Superior Courts and civil penalties to be imposed for those who violate the law.

Additionally, Attorney General Grewal issued Directive 2021-1on February 22, 2021, directing all prosecuting agencies to dismiss all pending marijuana charges in the courts in New Jersey, effective immediately. The directive further mandated that all cases already disposed of by way of diversion or conviction, prior to February 22, 2021, to be vacated by the Administrative Office of the Courts by operation of law.

The new law further provides some minimal protection for certain civil rights of individuals to be redressed. As a result of the changes to these laws, it is further anticipated that the decriminalization laws will lead to further changes being advanced in police misconduct cases and in the requirement of police retention of police disciplinary records and of the police officers wearing of body cameras during police-conducted activities in New Jersey.

In both the Orthodox community and in the public, drug usage has been condoned due to the significant rise in drug addiction over the last few years. Resources have been put in place in the courts through the Drug Court programs to address the increase in drug addiction. As an attorney with a practice devoted to criminal defense, DWI and municipal court defense handling a volume of drug cases in the courts, while the legalization of cannabis does regulate its sale and distribution to the public to curtail illegal sale of marijuana, it does allow cannabis to be more accessible in the marketplace. It is therefore important that we remain vigilant as a community to the danger of drug addiction.


Barbara Ungar, Esq., is a solo practitioner with a general practice located in Edison, New Jersey. She can be reached via the law firm website at www.ungarlawyernj.com  or at (732) 828-8700.

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