The language of the proposal specifically stated that the “growth, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packaging, transferring, and retail purchasing and consumption of cannabis…shall be lawful.”
The catch is that the voter-approved amendment also said these activities shall also be “subject to regulation by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission” and the commission’s “regulatory authority concerning legalized cannabis shall be authorized by law enacted by the Legislature.”
In other words, the amendment, which went into effect on Jan. 1, declared that state regulators must create a legal framework for the commercial production and sale of marijuana products, but the state legislature has to first pass a law that provides guidance and a framework for regulations.
This has put New Jersey in a strange quagmire.
For years, state lawmakers have negotiated various legalization packages and those negotiations have repeatedly failed, which is why the legislature punted the issue to the ballot in the first place. But even with a constitutional requirement to regulate a legal cannabis market, negotiations between lawmakers on the details of regulations and criminal penalties have again broken down.
The state legislature did approve a set of bills in December and sent them to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature. But the governor declined to sign them, citing concerns that the bills would not set any criminal penalties for individuals under the age of 21 who were found in possession of marijuana.