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Everything You Need to Know About Legal Marijuana in New Jersey

— September 3, 2021

The smell of cannabis is no longer a legal probable cause for a law enforcement officer to search a person, automobile, or residence.

With the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey, people likely have a lot of questions and concerns about what this new set of rules actually means. While marijuana usage is now legal and dispensaries will be popping up throughout the state, there are still specific things that New Jersey residents should be aware of. Can your employer fire you for smoking marijuana? Are there certain locations where smoking marijuana is still illegal? We’ll answer all the common questions that New Jersey residents might have regarding marijuana legalization. 

Overview of the 2021 NJ Marijuana Legalization Law

In February 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law legislation legalizing and regulating cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older, A-21 (P.L.2021,c.16). The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, and decriminalizing marijuana and hashish possession, A-1897 (P.L.2021,c.19). The Governor also signed S-3454 (P.L.2021,c.25), clarifying marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.

The biggest take away from this is that adults 21 and over are allowed to consume marijuana on private properties. Bars and restaurants are able to set their own rules. It is still illegal to consume marijuana on public properties, such as the beach or in parks, which is the same as the law as it pertains to alcohol. Some marijuana cases will remain criminal, like growing marijuana at home without a license and distributing large amounts of marijuana. New Jersey is one of the only states that does not allow recreational home growing.

Questions About Marijuana Usage in New Jersey

What Aspects of Marijuana Possession are Still Illegal?

One of the primary things you need to be cognizant of is how much marijuana you can have on your person at any given time. Anything up to 6 ounces is legal, but anything over that amount is still considered a 4th degree felony. Distributing large amounts of marijuana is still a criminal act even under these new marijuana laws. If you are caught distributing 25 pounds or more of marijuana that is a first degree crime and distributing 5 pounds is a second degree crime. Small sales of an ounce or less will be a written warning, with any further offenses resulting in a court summons and a fourth degree felony charge.

Can I Buy Legal Marijuana In NJ?

While the new marijuana laws were signed in February, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before dispensaries can begin opening and legally selling cannabis products. There is a regulatory board working to determine a number of factors that need to be considered before recreational dispensaries can be licensed and become operational. NJ currently has 13 medical marijuana dispensaries that are available to registered medical marijuana patients, but those are not available for everyone. It is likely that recreational dispensaries will be able to start selling legal marijuana towards the end of 2021 or early 2022. 

Can My Employer Fire Me for Marijuana Use or Ask Me to Take a Drug Test?

New Jersey employers cannot fire employees if they choose to consume marijuana on their own time, but employers can still take disciplinary action against employees that get high during job hours. Businesses can also still do pre-employment drug screenings and random drug testing if they choose. If you feel like you have been fired for consuming marijuana on your own time, you may be able to get help from a reputable employment law attorney.

What Happens if I Have a Currently Pending Marijuana Charge?

After the new marijuana laws were passed, the NJ attorney general directed prosecutors to drop cannabis cases and also issued protocols for police on how to proceed. Even if the violation happened prior to the legislation, prosecutors will be dropping those cases. If the marijuana charge is one that is still considered illegal under these new marijuana laws, then prosecutors may continue to pursue the charges.

Can NJ Residents Grow Marijuana at Home?

Pink and green marijuana flower; image by Esteban Lopez, via
Pink and green marijuana flower; image by Esteban Lopez, via

Some other states that have decriminalized marijuana possession have also made it legal to grow cannabis in your home. However, New Jersey is not one of these states. The bill that was signed in February 2021 does not allow New Jersey residents to grow marijuana at home.

Can I Smoke Marijuana While Driving?

The rules surrounding smoking while driving are similar to alcohol. You can still be charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of marijuana. The law also bans smoking marijuana in public places, like parks, bars, and beaches.

Can the Police Search My Car Based on the Smell of Weed?

No. The smell of cannabis is no longer a legal probable cause for a law enforcement officer to search a person, automobile, or residence.

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