TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Monday bills legalizing adults’ use of recreational marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts after months of negotiations with legislators.
But some say the penalties for minors are too weak, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.READ MORE: Marijuana In New Jersey: Holdup On Legalization Centers On Dispute Over Minors’ Possession Penalties
“New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws, which permanently stained the records of many residents and short circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color, and failed the meaning of justice at every level, are no more,” Murphy said.
New Jerseyâs broken & indefensible marijuana laws are no more.
Today, I signed historic legislation to:
â Legalize adult-use cannabis
â Decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts
â Limit the use of previous marijuana convictions
â Create a regulated cannabis marketplace pic.twitter.com/Y2pCKSgcn5
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) February 22, 2021
The governor put into effect a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November to legalize adult use of marijuana. Criminal records will also be wiped clean.
The final step was a compromise clean up bill to determine consequences for minors. It treats marijuana the same as alcohol use, while weakening existing penalties for underage drinking.
“It’s illegal, but it won’t be in the criminal justice system,” said State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), who sponsored the bills.
The first offense for minors caught with alcohol or marijuana results in a written warning from police
On the second offense, parents or guardians would be notified and provided information about community services or groups offering substance abuse education.
On the third offense, the minor would be referred to those community service groups.
READ MORE: Deal To Legalize Recreational Marijuana In New Jersey Falls Through
Marijuana will now be legal in NJ.
Weâre one step closer to ending this unjust, failed war on drugs that has systematically targeted Black & Brown people & the poor across our state & nation.
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) February 22, 2021
“This bill is insane,” said State Sen. Michael Testa (R). “The government is taking parents out of the lives of their children.”
Testa says a written warning for a kid caught with marijuana or alcohol is not enough.
“Couple that with the fact that law enforcement is not allowed to notify the parents that their child, their son or daughter, has been engaging in what is technically illegal activity, it makes absolutely no sense to me,” Testa said.
Marijuana industry expert Mike McQueeny says this form of underage education ties into criminal justice reform.
“It think, importantly for inner cities and communities of color, this isn’t carte blanche for police to basically use this to otherwise harass or intimidate individuals,” McQueeny said.
“What’s the timeline for people being able to go in and purchase marijuana legally,” Baker asked.
“They’re looking at anywhere between six months to a year,” said McQueeny.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission must now set up the rules, regulations and licensing structure to buy and sell marijuana.MORE NEWS: Gov. Cuomo Plans To Propose Legalizing Sports Betting, Marijuana In New York
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.