New Jersey Cannabis Laws
Is Cannabis Legal In New Jersey?
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Is recreational cannabis legal in New Jersey?
Yes & No. (THE SHORT OF IT: a legalization bill was approved by voters in the 2020 election but is awaiting Governor Muprhy’s signature). For the past couple of years, the progress of recreational legalization had been slowed by legislative gridlock. While polls showed most New Jerseyans would approve a recreational bill, the state had remained bipartisan halting advancements on regulatory details.
Only this past 2020 summer was the decriminalization of small amounts approved for the ballot. Legalization advocates noted that public interest in enacting decriminalization increased throughout COVID-19 amid protests over racial injustice and police brutality. Many argued that cannabis criminalization contributes to disparities in the criminal justice system.
Thus the momentum from these social justice movements helped advance legalization in the 2020 election with voter approval of Public Question 1. The passed ballot initiative amends the constitution to legalize recreational use for adults 21 years or older and provides for the state to establish a regulated market for cultivation, distribution, and sale.
As of February 2020, the current state of recreational cannabis in New Jersey is nuanced because the amendment only allows for the legalization of a regulated market, which means possession is still illegal until Gov. Phil Murphy signs the legislation. Murphy is holding out since the bill does not include any penalty for minors possessing cannabis, but many suggest he will not outright veto the bill.
Some of the more conservative municipalities have already enacted legislation to block recreational law, including retail sales, cultivation, and distribution.
Is Medical Marijuana legal in New Jersey?
Yes. 2010 Governor Jon Corzine signed into law the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act, allowing medical cannabis products for patients with qualifying conditions including cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, and many other severe and terminal illnesses. Registered patients may buy 3 oz for every 18 months.
While patients and caregivers may possess medical marijuana in their homes, they are forbidden from growing. Many have criticized New Jersey’s medical marijuana program as one of the strictest regions, permitting six licensed dispensaries in the state.
Since the state’s first dispensaries opened in 2012, there has been slow progress in expanding the program. In 2017 qualifying conditions were added to include less severe illnesses such as migraines, arthritis, chronic pain, Lyme disease, autism-related anxiety, and Tourette’s syndrome.
Most recently, in 2019, the Medicinal Marijuana review board approved a deal to create a new licensing system that would create up to 100 new dispensaries and support more licenses to minority business owners. Also, qualifying conditions, anti-discrimination protections, and home delivery were expanded with the signing of A20 “Jake’s Law.”
Are CBD products legal in New Jersey?
Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC.
Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.
What’s New Jersey’s cannabis sales tax?
6.625%. Any purchase of medical marijuana/future recreational products is subject to the state’s retail sales tax.
Are there any other New Jersey cannabis tax rates?
Yes. When officially signed into law by the Governor, there will be a 2% local option of taxes for all sales from cannabis establishments.
Is cannabis delivery legal in New Jersey?
Currently, delivery is legal only for medical marijuana. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the state legislature approved dispensaries’ ability to register for patient delivery. There are 11 dispensaries in the state.
Delivery services are still subject to local limits based on time, place, and delivery manner (operating hours and delivery locations).
New Jersey’s Cannabis Timeline:
1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.
1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession.
1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.
Classification of Controlled Substances:
Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use
Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use
Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins.”
1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.
2010: New Jersey’s Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act is signed into law, legalizing a medical marijuana program.
2012: New Jersey’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens in Montclair.
2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
2017: New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Review board approves more qualifying conditions to be included in their medical marijuana program.
2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.
2019: The Medicinal Marijuana Review board approves a new licensing system and dispensary expansion.
2019: Gov. Murphy signed A20, Jake’s Law. The law expands on the current medical marijuana program and was named after Jake Honig, a pediatric patient who used medical cannabis during his battle with cancer
2020: New Jersey approves a bill for medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for delivery licensing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
November 2020: Public Question 1 is passed by voters in the 2020 election, amending the constitution to legalize recreational use for adults 21 years or older and provides for the state to establish a regulated market for cultivation, distribution, and sale.