Marijuana is officially legal in New Jersey.
Following three years of failed legislative attempts, tax negotiations and protracted legal battles, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills Monday that legalize up to six ounces of recreational pot in the Garden State, NJ.com reported.
“As of this moment, New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws, which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise — are no more,” Murphy said during an afternoon briefing in Trenton before signing the bills.
Murphy, who promised to legalize weed in his first 100 days as governor three years ago, finally saw his campaign promises realized when residents voted to amend the state constitution and legalize recreational grass in November.
Still, even after the vote, the legislature spent months duking it out over tax revenue, licensing rules and what the penalties would be for people under 21 caught with marijuana. All the while, New Jersey police racked up 2,000 charges for minor pot possession, the outlet reported.
The New Jersey state Senate and Assembly held a last-minute vote Monday morning on a bill that would replace arrests and fines for young pot smokers with verbal warnings and referrals to community programs, like drug education or treatment, the outlet reported.
Murphy acknowledged the fight took longer than anticipated.
“This process may have had its fits and starts, but it is ending in the right place. And, I firmly believe, this process has ended in laws that will serve as a national model,” the gov said.
Still, there a few other hurdles to cross before the high times can begin.
The Garden State still needs to license new dispensaries to meet the needs for the 100,000 medical marijuana patients that are already allowed to legally partake.
The medical dispensaries have had trouble supplying to those patients and they need to prove they can produce enough grass to them first before their doors can open to the public.
Experts told NJ.com recreational sales could start in late 2021 but those predictions came before the drawn-out debates on civil penalties — Murphy said the marketplace will begin taking shape in the coming months.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will oversee the industry, has six months to enact their rules and regulations before it’ll start accepting new licensees for recreational businesses.
In the meantime, the public shouldn’t be facing any repercussions if they’re caught with pot they purchased from the neighborhood dope slinger.
“Starting immediately, those who had been subject to an arrest for petty marijuana possession — an arrest that may have kept them from a job or the opportunity to further their education — will be able to get relief and move forward,” Murphy said.