Updated: Mar 5, 2021
After months of deliberation, Phil Murphy signed into law, a bill that legalized the use and possession of up to six ounces of marijuana in the state of New Jersey. NJ voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in November, leading to a period of uncertainty surrounding the bill, as it sat on Governor Phil Murphy’s desk, waiting for action to be taken for nearly 4 months.
While Gov. Murphy deliberated, police issued roughly 6,000 charges for marijuana related penalties, according to NJ.com.
Marijuana legalization has long been a topic of debate. Every year, thousands are arrested for cannabis-related crimes, and although recreational use of marijuana is legal in 14 states, many remain imprisoned, or subject to the whims of the justice system.
According to the data collected by NJ.com in 2019, prior to passing the law, NJ ranked in the top 5 states for highest number of marijuana related arrests. Nearly 35,000 arrests were made annually. Research conducted by Norml, a marijuana advocacy organization, shows a person of color is four times as likely to be arrested as their white counterpart, despite usage trends maintaining rough equality across all races.
This marks a major victory for minorities and casual smokers alike, as this will greatly reduce the number of arrests made in relation to petty crimes. Many who were once labeled “criminals,” will effectively have that title removed.
Advocates for marijuana have cited its medicinal benefits, lack of harm to users, and widespread use as reasons for its legalization. Make no mistake, that is why this is important. The weed stores will be cool, but the blemishes removed are even cooler!