When New Jersey legalized possession of cannabis for recreational use, it didn’t permit the unlicensed selling of the drug.
But it did require police to issue warnings to small-time dealers for a first offense instead of arresting them. Since then, data obtained from the state Judiciary shows the number of people arrested for selling small amounts of cannabis has dropped from the thousands to fewer than three dozen.
The data also shows there have been relatively few arrests for possessing more cannabis than is permitted under state law.
State regulators began formally accepting applications this week from those seeking licenses to engage in the retail sale of marijuana products.
"Time and time again, we have seen that consumers prefer to obtain cannabis products from safe, licensed, above-ground retailers," Armentano said. "But, absent access to such facilities, the illicit market will continue to fill this void."
Some two-thirds of cities and towns in New Jersey have elected not to permit licensed marijuana retailers.
Localities had until this past Saturday to decide whether to allow retail operations or to bar them. Those municipalities that have chosen to opt out are free to reverse their position at any time.
The initial citywide moratoriums apply to the licensing of brick-and-mortar retailers. New regulations just issued by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission forbid localities from imposing bans on marijuana delivery services.
So even as we make progress, I still can’t bring myself to rejoice yet. In the days after the 2020 election, news articles and social media posts celebrated the legalization of recreational cannabis in multiple states: Montana, Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Then in late 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. (The bill remains stalled in the Senate.) But while decriminalization and legalization are the first steps toward equality, they are not a complete solution.
Recent data shows that drug treatment admissions for marijuana have declined by 80% in Philadelphia. This is likely a result of a 2014 ordinance decriminalizing possession along with new procedures adopted by District Attorney Larry Krasner, a civil rights attorney elected in 2017.
On Thursday, members of the New Jersey state Assembly approved a substitute version of A1897 by a 63-10 vote, with five abstentions. As currently written, the measure decriminalizes the possession and distribution of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults — making these activities punishable by a $50 fine. Those found to be in violation of the law will no longer be arrested or saddled with a criminal record.
Like protesters around the U.S. who seek to address issues raised by the death of George Floyd and other instances of police violence, the cannabis industry has taken action to promote social equity and business opportunities in the sector.
Below, Marijuana Business Daily offers a sampling of organizations and efforts that support, foster and enhance social equity in the cannabis industry, opportunities for minorities, overall diversity and racial justice – as well as other issues facing marijuana businesses.
The marijuana reform group NORML is leading an effort to encourage states to deprioritize the enforcement of cannabis criminalization amid the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, more than 4,000 constituents across the country have participated in the organization’s action campaign launched on Wednesday by sending messages to their governors, urging them to take steps to minimize the spread of the virus by avoiding unnecessary marijuana arrests.
Legislation allowing banks to provide credit cards and checking accounts to legal cannabis businesses has been stalled in the Senate. But members of Congress are looking to add its provisions to the next coronavirus stimulus bill, NJ Cannabis Insider has learned.
The argument is that many patients who use legal marijuana are among the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, and forcing them to deal in cash also puts employees at risk.