New Jersey joined 18 other states and the district of Colombia in legalizing recreational cannabis on the 21st of April this year. The passing of the new legislation allows adults 21 years and older to purchase and consume marijuana legally. This monumental milestone for the marijuana industry came only a day after the unofficial holiday 4/20, which celebrates everything to do with cannabis.
Novice tokers and cannabis enthusiasts poured into the 13 medical marijuana dispensaries licensed to sell adult-use weed in the Garden State. Law enforcement could only direct traffic as cannabis consumers flocked dispensaries for the first taste of legal recreational weed. Many were also in the market for various weed accessories, including glass pipes, dab rigs, and vapes.
New Jersey decriminalized medical cannabis back in 2010, becoming the 14th state in America to do so. Nearly ten years later, in the summer of 2020, voters in the Garden State passed the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, allowing the possession and use of marijuana for residents 21 years and older.
Last year, Governor Phil Murphy and other state legislators legalized the sale and consumption of adult-use marijuana. As of April this year, New Jersey became one of the first states on the east coast to start retail sales of recreational cannabis. Although neighboring New York has also legalized marijuana for adult use, the state is yet to commence retail sales for the products. On the other hand, Pennsylvania only allows medical cannabis.
Local authorities in New Jersey have only approved 13 dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis, all of which already sell medical marijuana. Even so, hundreds more are expected to seek retail licensing for recreational cannabis as the budding industry gains traction. Although this denotes a remarkable milestone for the state’s cannabis industry, it is anything but a free-for-all.
State regulators maintain strict limitations regarding adult-use cannabis, including how much pot a consumer is allowed to purchase, possess, and where they are allowed to partake. For instance, you can only purchase up to an ounce of marijuana per transaction.
Similarly, they can possess as much as six grams of marijuana. Anything more could land you a fourth-degree criminal offense. Consequently, consumers can expect long queues since people will be forced to get small quantities at a time.
What’s more, people will have to wait until they are in the privacy of their own homes before they can hit a bong or a joint. Currently, the only legal place where it’s permitted to consume marijuana is at your residence. For renters, they must have permission to smoke from their landlords. Property owners can also prohibit their tenants from consuming weed of any kind.
Additionally, it is illegal to consume cannabis inside vehicles. Smoking cannabis in cars is strictly forbidden, whether hitching a ride or driving. Although some studies show that cannabis doesn’t affect driving, the state has also emphasized that driving while high is against the law. Moreover, taking weed purchased in New Jersey across the state’s border will get you on the wrong side of the law. This law goes for all forms of marijuana, including edibles and concentrates. Since federal legalization is no longer a far-fetched dream, it’s only a matter of time until cannabis can be transported interstate.
Individuals are also prohibited from growing their own cannabis. On top of that, safety-sensitive transportation workers, including bus drivers, subway operators, truck drivers, and pilots, are barred from using medical and recreational cannabis. Failure to observe this rule can lead to losing your US Department of Transportation (DOT)-issued licenses.
Governor Philip Murphy estimated that the tax revenue from recreational cannabis would generate approximately $30 million by the end of the fiscal year. He also projected that the state will get more than $120 million from the industry in 2023. Legislation surrounding adult-use marijuana calls for a 6.6 percent sales tax for products.
Like many other states, New Jersey has allocated a chunk of the proceeds from cannabis tax to social equity. Seventy percent of the tax revenue collected for the adult-use market will be assigned to communities disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. The legalization of recreational marijuana will also help prevent the ostracization of people who partake of cannabis.
The launch of the recreational cannabis market in New Jersey hasn’t come without its fair share of opposition. Perhaps the biggest concern for people who are for the prohibition is the effects a legal weed market will have on the younger generation. However, studies have shown that marijuana use among teens continues to reduce even as more states legalize the substance.
As the legal recreational marijuana market continues to take shape in New Jersey, the state expects to reap big from the ever-growing industry.