Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Clients in New Jersey

Recreational Cannabis Market to Be Established in NJ

Recreational Cannabis Market to Be Established in NJ

New Jersey Commission Approves Regulated Marijuana Marketplace

On August 19, 2021, New Jersey’s cannabis regulators approved rules to set up the state’s recreational marijuana market. While recreational marijuana was officially legalized for adults ages 21+ in February of this year, a marketplace was not yet established. Now that cultivator licenses are up for grabs in the Garden State, New Jersey residents can expect to see an influx of recreational marijuana establishments in their towns. Despite the legalization of the cannabis marketplace, however, NJ municipalities are allowed to impose restrictions, nonetheless. Of the 500 towns and cities in NJ, nearly 50 have chosen to ban recreational marijuana establishments in their municipalities.

Regardless, the bottom line is that adults ages 21 and over will soon be able to purchase cannabis from retailers in NJ. It is not yet known when cannabis sales will begin, although, residents will soon get notified that retail applications will be accepted. Under the rules, application priority is given to women-, minority-, and disabled veteran-owned businesses, as well as those from low-income areas and those with prior marijuana-related criminal offenses. The reason is that the rules emphasize equity as a result of the years of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against Black residents in particular.

That said, application fees are intended to be low to encourage small businesses to apply for a cultivator license, rather than only major firms. Fees start as low as $100. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees will pay a $1,000 application fee, while large businesses could pay up to $50,000 for an annual license.

Moreover, treatment centers that already sell medical marijuana will be allowed to sell recreational marijuana as well, as long as they have enough medical cannabis for patients. Application fees for these alternative treatment centers will range from $100,000 to $1 million.

It’s important to know that for two years, only 37 cultivator licenses will be approved in New Jersey. As such, not all applications will be approved.

Besides equity, the newly approved rules also prioritize safety. Anyone under 21 cannot enter marijuana retailers and all cannabis products must be packaged in childproof containers. For clarity, medical marijuana patients who are under 21 cannot purchase marijuana from anywhere other than a New Jersey licensed alternative treatment center, so these individuals should be mindful of such restrictions as the recreational marketplace rolls out in New Jersey.

With these updates in mind, we can expect to see a decrease in marijuana-related arrests in New Jersey. The state’s efforts to decriminalize cannabis possession, legalize adult-use cannabis, and create a regulated cannabis marketplace are significant steps forward. However, that does not mean the police will stop making arrests for cannabis-related offenses.

Marijuana Decriminalization FAQs

It is exciting to see New Jersey’s efforts to establish a recreational marijuana marketplace. Despite this progress, however, there are limits. For these reasons, we answer some frequently asked questions below.

Is the smell of marijuana enough to make an arrest?

The odor of marijuana alone does not establish probable cause to make an arrest in New Jersey. Police officers must have probable cause to determine if a driver is under the influence before making an arrest. If an officer believes the driver is impaired, they will search the vehicle. If the driver is not found to be under the influence, however, then the odor of marijuana alone does not establish reasonable suspicion to continue the stoop nor probable cause to conduct a search.

Can a police officer stop me on the street if they smell weed?

No. New Jersey statutes prohibit police officers from making a pedestrian stop based on the smell of marijuana alone.

What are the laws for possessing marijuana under the age of 21?

In New Jersey, police officers can seize marijuana from anyone under 21 who unlawfully possesses it and issue a warning. However, when investigating underage possession or consumption of marijuana, a police officer must obey the following rules:

  • Officers may not request consent from an individual who is under the age of 21
  • Officers may not use the odor of marijuana to stop an individual who is under the age of 21 or to search the individual’s personal property or vehicle
  • Officers who observe marijuana in plain view will not be able to search the individual or the individual’s personal property or vehicle
  • Officers may not arrest, detain, or otherwise take someone under the age of 21 into custody unless the detention or custody is required to issue a written warning or collect information to provide notice of a violation to the underage person’s parent/guardian

What if I refuse to show my ID to a police officer?

If a police officer suspects you are unlawfully possessing or consuming cannabis and asks to see your ID to issue a warning, you will not be arrested or taken into custody for refusing to do so unless you have broken other laws, such as obstruction of justice. Simply refusing to provide identifying information is not a crime, though.

Can students possess marijuana on school property?

No. N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 states that “any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages, or under the legal age to purchase cannabis items, who knowingly possesses without legal authority or who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage, cannabis item, marijuana, or hashish in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle, shall” be subject to the written warnings. However, possessing over 6 ounces of cannabis if you are under 21 is a fourth-degree crime, therefore, an officer can arrest you for possessing 6+ ounces of marijuana on school property.

What happens if I’m arrested for a marijuana-related crime?

If you were arrested for a drug crime involving marijuana, it’s important to hire a skilled attorney right away. Despite New Jersey’s progressive efforts to decriminalize marijuana, you could still get arrested for consuming, possessing, selling, or trafficking marijuana, among other related crimes. That said, we strongly encourage you to retain our lawyers at Brickfield & Donahue for expert defense and powerhouse representation. We can help get your charge reduced or dismissed altogether, allowing you to move forward!

To schedule your free consultation and learn more, contact us at (201) 574-7919!