Although cannabis became legal in New Jersey on Friday morning, January 1, all the laws on the books outlawing marijuana possession, use, and sales are still in effect. This means someone possessing marijuana can technically be jailed for a year, according to NORML. And this is happening after legalization.
“Until there is a law establishing a legal cannabis market, the existing state laws regarding marijuana remain in effect,” Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said on Thursday.
According to a Forbes report, the only legal “protection” that cannabis users in New Jersey currently enjoy is a polite request from the state attorney general, who has asked police to please not arrest anyone for weed.
On the politics side, there is an eleventh-hour breakdown in the lawmaking process. But on the law side, there is a questionable use of language. “Marijuana” is still illegal in New Jersey no matter what. “Cannabis,” on the other hand, is okay, but only in certain situations, says Forbes journalist Chris Roberts.
Amendment without details
Though Question 1 amended the state constitution and was interpreted by both voters and the media as “legalizing marijuana,” the amendment provided no details, like how much adults could possess, and where they could get it. All those details would come later in “enabling legislation,” a package of laws that would also outline broad rules controlling a future commercial cannabis industry.
So January 1, the effective date, came and went without any laws in place for citizens to enjoy.
On Nov. 25, a few weeks after the legalization vote, while lawmakers were still debating the finer points of where to divide the cannabis sales tax revenue, Grewal directed all local courts to seek adjournment of any pending or future court cases involving marijuana possession.
That adjournment request, essentially a moratorium on enforcing petty marijuana laws, is supposed to remain in effect until January 25.
Until then, police have the legal right to arrest someone for marijuana and take whatever weed they have on them. But if they do, prosecutors will not be able to do anything with the case.
It is sort of unclear whether there is now a constitutional right to possess cannabis,” said Amol Sinha, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, one of the main supporters of the political campaign that convinced voters to approve Question 1.