NJ Cannabis Update – July 30th, 2018

Authored By: Patrick McKnight

Last week New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal directed Garden State prosecutors to pause marijuana-related municipal cases until at least September. The July 24th announcement comes after initial efforts to enact legislative reform stalled earlier this summer. Proponents of reform remain hopeful the State Senate will reconsider legalizing adult recreational use later this year. The announcement does not direct police to stop making marijuana related arrests.

On July 19th Jersey City announced it would implement a marijuana decriminalization policy with the express purpose of increasing racial justice. “What gives me pause is that despite similar cross-racial usage of marijuana, New Jerseyans of color are three times more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for marijuana than white New Jerseyans,” Jersey City chief municipal prosecutor Jake Hudnut explained. “I think prosecutors have an obligation to acknowledge this and fix this problem.” Attorney General Grewal disputed the city’s legal authority to unilaterally make such a decision.

Of the 36,000 people arrested for marijuana-related charges in New Jersey in 2016, over 32,000 were for possession of small amounts. New Jersey has the second-highest marijuana arrest rate in the country and saw the largest increase in arrests from 2015 to 2016.

Across the Hudson River, a recent study commissioned by the Governor of New York recommended the Empire State also consider legalization. The study argued that any potential risks are vastly outweighed by the benefits. This high-profile study may put additional pressure on New Jersey politicians to vote on legislation before the end of the year.

Governor Murphy had campaigned on a promise to legalize adult recreational use in his first 100 days. New Jersey would be the tenth state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.

On July 16th Governor Murphy announced the state is requesting applications for six new medical marijuana dispensaries, doubling the number of operational facilities. The move is an effort to accommodate the 10,000 new patients who joined the program after the Murphy Administration expanded eligibility in March. Total enrollment in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program now stands at over 25,000 patients and 700 physicians.