Marijuana Decriminalization & Cannabis Legalization

Marijuana Decriminalization & Cannabis Legalization

On February 22, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed three bills changing the legal status of marijuana. These laws, which went into immediate effect, create a two-tier framework:

  • Regulated cannabis. When the substance is bought, sold, and used under certain conditions, it is treated as “regulated cannabis” and fully legal in New Jersey. As a practical matter, however, regulated cannabis will not be available in the State for several months until a new government body, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, issues rules governing its use.
  • Marijuana and hashish. All forms of the substance that are not regulated cannabis or medical cannabis are treated as “marijuana” or “hashish.” Under the new laws, marijuana and hashish are still defined as “controlled dangerous substances” under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-2 but are largely decriminalized for non-distribution offenses. The laws eliminate existing prohibitions and create new, more lenient penalties for possession and distribution that remain tiered based on weight.

Shortly after enactment, Attorney General Grewal issued two documents to law enforcement describing the new requirements and providing enforcement guidance:

Marijuana Laws

  • Cannabis legalization (P.L.2021, c.16). (Feb. 22, 2021) Titled as the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement, Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act, this law legalizes regulatory cannabis. (A21)
  • Marijuana decriminalization (P.L.2021, c.19). (Feb. 22, 2021) This law decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish and establishes new, more lenient penalties for the distribution of these substances. (A1897)
  • Other clarifying provisions (P.L.2021, c.25). (Feb. 22, 2021) This law clarifies certain provisions regarding marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old. (S3454)
  • Additional clarifying provisions (P.L. 2021, c.38). (Mar. 26, 2021) This law revises certain provisions concerning parental notification of juveniles found to be using or possessing alcohol, marijuana, hashish or cannabis, as well as amending certain other provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15. (A5472)

Frequently Asked Questions(rev. 5/27/22)

Marijuana Reference Card (rev. 3/26/21)