Cannabis became legal in New Jersey on Friday morning, January 1.
Or did it?
New Year’s Day was when a constitutional amendment legalizing the extremely popular plant—approved by more than two-thirds of New Jersey voters on Election Day—went into effect.
Simple enough. Except there’s a significant catch: All the laws on the books outlawing marijuana possession, use, and sales are still in effect.
The only legal “protection” that cannabis users in New Jersey currently enjoy is a polite request from the state attorney general, who has asked police to please not arrest anyone for weed.
Cannabis is legal in New Jersey, but there’s nowhere to buy any—and you can still be be arrested for marijuana in New Jersey?
This weird dichotomy sounds like some logician’s trick in a freshman philosophy seminar, but it’s an object lesson in both law and politics.
On the politics side, there’s an eleventh-hour breakdown in the lawmaking process. Avoidable, regrettable, but explicable. But on the law side, there’s a questionable use of language. “Marijuana” is still illegal in New Jersey no matter what. “Cannabis,” on the other hand, is okay—but only in certain situations.