NEW JERSEY MARIJUANA / CANNABIS AND ALCOHOL LEGALIZATION INFORMATION
New Jersey voters were asked:
Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis” for individuals 21 years of age and over?
Result: 67% approved
WHAT LAWMAKERS DID WITH THIS VOTE
On Feb 22, 2021 Governor Murphy signed three laws into effect which legalized cannabis, decriminalized marijuana, and included underage possession and consumption of marijuana and alcoholic beverages.
Marijuana remains illegal to possess until regulated cannabis is introduced.
Police must seize marijuana but take no enforcement action on 6 ounces or less.
New Law limits consequences for juveniles and individuals 18-20 found in possession of marijuana AND ALCOHOL
- For adults, 6 oz. or less is not an offense.
- Over 6 oz. is a warning for first offense
- For individuals under 21, under 6 oz is illegal to possess, police MUST seize it but merely provide warning.
WHAT WAS PUT IN THE LAW
- Individuals under 21, found in possession of alcohol, will be issued a WARNING ONLY!
- Individuals under 21 MUST be issued a WARNING ONLY for possession
- Initial law signed by Governor PREVENTED police from notifying parents of juveniles found with marijuana and alcohol.
- The odor of marijuana or alcohol no longer constitutes reasonable suspicion to investigate, or search personal property.
NEW LAW LIMITS POLICE OFFICER RESPONSE TO COMPLAINTS FROM CITIZENS
- Officers SHALL NOT use the smell of marijuana, burned or raw from initiating an investigation even though it remains illegal to possess.
- Officers SHALL NOT use observations (plain sight) as evidence to initiate a stop or conduct a search for marijuana or alcohol
- Officers SHALL NOT ask a juvenile for consent to search for alcohol or marijuana.
- Officers who mistakenly violate any of these provisions may be charged criminally with a third degree crime.
- Being intoxicated by alcohol or drugs in public is NO LONGER an offense.
- Possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle is NO LONGER an offense.
IS THIS WHAT YOU VOTED FOR?
Laws can only change at the state level
Governor’s contact link for comments https://nj.gov/governor/contact/
Contact NJ Senators:
Contact NJ 2nd District Congressman:
Legalization of Cannabis Frequently Asked Questions
In November, 2019, New Jersey voters approved a public question by a two to one margin that asked voters if they would favor a constitutional amendment legalizing a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis”. It stated only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. Since approval, New Jersey lawmakers and the Governor have approved remarkable and significant legislation that legalizes cannabis and decriminalizes marijuana. The Governor and lawmakers have also removed legal consequences for juveniles and adults 18-20 for possessing marijuana and have included alcohol. The law prevents officers from using the smell or sight of marijuana or alcohol to initiate an investigation and threatens third degree criminal charges for police officers making mistakes while investigating offenses, making enforcement difficult, if not impossible.
This FAQ is presented by the Avalon Police Department to provide information to the public regarding the new law and what is enforceable, and not enforceable, by local authorities and governing bodies.
- Is marijuana currently legal to possess in New Jersey (other than medical)? NO. Currently, Marijuana remains illegal to possess as there is no legal, regulated form of cannabis, and are no regulated cannabis dispensaries. However, the recent legislation in New Jersey has legalized regulated cannabis, therefore when dispensaries become operational, it will be legal to possess regulated cannabis in approved quantities.
- Did the law include alcohol for juveniles and minors 18-20? Yes Possession of alcohol by a juvenile, or person 18-20 year of age now has little consequences. Although still technically not permitted, possession of alcohol would result in merely a warning for first, and all subsequent offenses. Police may seize the alcohol but have significant limitations while doing so.
- What are the consequences for adults over 21, if caught with 6 ounces or less of marijuana in public? Even though it currently remains illegal to possess, there are no consequences as it is no longer considered an offense. The marijuana will be seized and the adult would be released.
- What are the consequences for those 18-20, caught with 6 ounces or less of marijuana in public? Even though it currently remains illegal to possess, the only consequence is a warning for the first and all subsequent offenses.
- What are the consequences for juveniles under 18 caught with under 6 ounces of marijuana or Alcohol?Even though it remains illegal, the only consequence is a warning for first and all subsequent offences, and parents will be notified, if the police are able to determine parent’s identity.
- Is it true that police cannot inform parents of juveniles that are caught with six ounces of marijuana or alcohol? The original law signed by the Governor on February 22, 2021 made it illegal for police to inform the parents of juveniles caught with marijuana or alcohol. The law threatened third degree charges against police for doing so. In March 2021, a clean-up bill was signed into law reversing this, now making it mandatory that parents are notified by police. However, juveniles typically do not possess a legal form of Identification and may not be cooperative, therefore it will be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain parents correct information.
- Is it legal to possess medical cannabis? Yes If you have a legal medical marijuana card and prescribed medical cannabis from a licensed practitioner, and obtained it legally, there are no changes.
- Is cannabis use permissible on private property by adults? Yes. Provided that the amount is under six (6) ounces, Law enforcement has no enforcement capabilities of the use of cannabis on private property. New Jersey has decided that people can use cannabis inside their homes, or outside on private property. If police are called to a complaint of cannabis being smoked on private property, they are powerless to do anything about it. Prohibiting smoking of any substance on private property is still possible by way of lease agreement.
- Is cannabis use permissible on public property? It depends. Municipalities may, at their own discretion, prohibit smoking of any products on public properties that they deem necessary. That may include, but is not limited to, beaches, parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, boardwalks, etc. Per local ordinance, an adult could be issued a citation if approached by law enforcement and reminded of the smoking prohibition on public property. The violation would be a petty disorderly person’s offense.
- What should I do, if I observe or smell marijuana or any substance in public? Call the police. Whenever you believe a violation of law or ordinance is being committed, even if you are not positive, you should always call the police and provide as much information as possible. The police will make the determination based on legal relevant information if there is any basis for action to be taken. The police are no longer permitted to use the smell or sight of marijuana to initiate an investigation.
- Is it reasonable to expect law enforcement to catch everyone who smokes on public property? No, that is an impossible task. Even with additional officers assigned for the summer, there should be no reasonable expectation that everyone who elects to smoke cannabis or another smoking product on public property will be caught and provided with a citation.
- Is it true that police officers themselves could be charged with a crime relating to an investigation into cannabis? Yes, especially relating to juveniles and minors 18-20. If an officer sees cannabis, smells it, they are still prohibited from initiating and investigation, the officer could be charged with a third degree crime “Official depravation of Civil Rights”. If an officer investigates for an “unreasonable amount of time”, the officer would be charged with a third degree crime. The amount of time is not defined by law. Officers must activate body cameras at all times when dealing with cannabis or underage alcohol related offenses or they could be charged with a crime of tampering with a government record.
- Can the mere odor of marijuana provide law enforcement with a suspicion that an adult is committing an offense? No. Despite years of training and experience to the contrary, New Jersey now forbids police from using the smell of marijuana to initiate an investigation. Additionally, any possession of marijuana six ounces or less is no longer an offense. Additionally, law enforcement is prohibited from initiating a stop or a search even if they can see the cannabis in plain sight.
- What can the police do if someone, even a juvenile, is observed intoxicated by marijuana, alcohol or drugs in public? It depends Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is no longer an offense as per the new law. However, police are required to care for people that may be a danger to themselves or others. Ex: if a juvenile is intoxicated from alcohol or drugs, based on the new law, there is nothing police can do about it, not even notify their parents. If the intoxication can reasonably be believed to put the individual in danger, the police may intervene for the person’s safety only, through the community care or emergency aid doctrine.
- What are the consequences for juveniles, and those 18-21 for using, possessing marijuana, cannabis, or alcohol? A first offense results in a written warning, and notice to parents for juveniles. A second offense is a written warning and providing information on drug addiction, and notification of parents for juveniles. A third and all subsequent offenses result in a written warning and reference to a drug treatment facility, although there is no obligation on the minor to actually report to the facility.
- Since warnings are mandatory as per law, will the state have a warning tracking system? NO The New Jersey Attorney General has declined to produce a statewide warning tracking system. It is recognized that juveniles, and those 18-20 will seldom be cooperative, therefore a warning system would be ineffective. Therefore, it is not actually practical that the required warnings will be able to be tracked effectively.
- Are there prior offenses that are no longer offenses in New Jersey relating to marijuana and alcohol? Yes. Possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to dispose property, possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle, and being under the influence of alcohol and/or marijuana in public are no longer criminal offenses in New Jersey as per the new legislation.
- Is driving while intoxicated still illegal in New Jersey? YES If drivers are intoxicated from alcohol or any drug, (even those legally prescribed) they will be arrested and charged accordingly. Avalon Police officers will continue to receive specialized training to determine if drivers are impaired and will have zero tolerance for this dangerous activity.
These laws can only change on the State level. If you are concerned about the law you should direct your comments to the Governor’s office or Senators here: https://www.nj.gov/governor/contact/.