NJ & NY Marijuana Legalization News

Marijuana is likely going to be legalized soon in New Jersey.  Nothing is set in stone, and all we can do is watch.  Below you will find important legalization updates for both New Jersey and New York’s legalization efforts.  Until it is formally legalized, the simple possession of pot carries many penalties.  If you are caught with marijuana, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.  



New Jersey Legalization Update - 7/3/19

It’s been awhile since we have had any real news on marijuana legalization efforts in NJ, but Governor Murphy has finally signed an expansion bill for medical pot.  The new bill will allow for dozens more providers, up from the only six current facilities.  The number of doctors certified to prescribe marijuana will also increase, along with a relaxation of the guidelines that limit who is eligible to receive the prescription.

Other changes are an decrease in the amount of required doctor visits to maintain the prescription; increase the monthly allowance of pot from 2 to 3 ounces; and permits out of state residents to purchase NJ marijuana.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 5/23/19

We are still awaiting news referred to in yesterdays update, however, we have been told that Senate President Sweeney is opposing decriminalizaiton, and as such that may now be off the table.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 5/22/19

It is looking pretty certain that adult use marijuana legalization is not going to move ahead in the legislature.  They are hoping to add the question of legalization to the 2020 ballot.  If this happens, it is very likely to become law, as over 60% of New Jersians favor legalization.  

They are moving ahead with medical marijuana expansion and a few other bills, however.  A bill that may be voted on tomorrow could increase the level of access for patients and approve more providers.  There may also be additional protections from discrimination in the workplace for patients with a valid prescription.  They will also now allow different marijuana preparations such as edibles, oils, etc., and increase the amount allowed per month from 2 ounces to 3.  

Regarding expungements, although they don’t appear to be adding an automatic expungement provision into law, they are shortening the waiting period to get one, and expedited the process of actually receiving an expungement.

Finally, it appears that although they aren’t going for full on legalization of cannabis, they are decriminalizing.  What this means is that for the possession of less than 2 ounces of pot, instead of possibly facing jail time, driver’s license suspensions and large fines, you may walk away simply with a $50 fine.  Larger amounts of pot are being downgraded to a disorderly person’s offense vs a 4th degree crime.

This is all still up in the air and subject to change. We hopefully will find out more tomorrow.

United States Marijuana Legalization Update -5/13/19

North Dakota has moved forward with a decriminalization bill for marijuana.  It is no longer punishable by jail for the possession of amounts up to half an ounce for adults 21 and over.  They are also just getting their medical marijuana system going, with the openig of its first dispensary this past March.  Legalization advocates are gearing up again for a renewed push in the 2020 ballot.  

New York Legalization Update - 5/13/19

As immediately below, it also looks like New York has taken a tumble in its legalization efforts.  They are stalled out and only have 6 weeks left in the legislative session to come to agreement.  If this doesn’t happen, we will have quite awhile left to wait.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 5/13/19

There hasn’t been a lot of movement with legalization over the last few months, but there is some reason news.  A vote on legalization stalled out again, and it is being suggested that the matter be given to New Jersey voters at the ballot.  Poll’s show around 62% of New Jerseians approve of ending marijuana prohibition.  The main roadblock for this is that NJ, unlike many other states, does not allow regular citizens to petition a referendum, instead requiring the approval of the legislature.  They have set May 31st as a tentative deadline by which they hope to try again.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 3/26/19

Legalization yet again has been delayed.  They did not end up doing a full vote after deciding immediately prior that they would not have recieved enough support to pass the bill.  They hope to put it to vote soon, perhaps by the end of the month, or more likely we will have to wait until the legislative session reopens after the summer.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 3/25/19

Today may be the day for legalization.  There should be vote sometime tonight, the outcome of which is unknown. If it fails, we will very likely have to wait at least 3 months for a revote, while the Senate is not in session.  If it does pass, tomorrow will be a vote on the SAFE act which would enable banking institutions to service the legal weed business.

One of the more unexpected additions to the law is that it voids numerous  bas on the sale of marijuana that various municipalities preemptively voted in favor of.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 3/20/19

This Monday, committees in both houses of the States legislature voted in approval on the proposed marijuana legalization bill.  The approval was not unanimous but it received 7 “Yes” votes, 2 “No” votes and 2 abstentions. It will now be up for review and modification and may be up to vote by the full legislature as early as the 25th.  It is important to keep in mind that a bill passing in committee is not the same as passing on the house floor.  There are still roadblocks and a number of Senator’s opposed or undecided, but this is the closest we have ever been.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 3/13/19

Its been awhile since we have had any real updates on the legalization movement, but yesterday members of the senate and assembly announced they had come to an agreement on legalization.  According to them, we can expect to see the text of the bill soon.  The current goal is to have a vote on March 25th.  If they do not have the votes or are unable to reach this deadline, we are likely looking at several more months of waiting.

They say that they have no gone ahead with automatic expungements and instead will create a ‘virtual expungement’.  It’s not quite clear what this is but it sounds like they will add into the law a provision that stops businesses and schools from discriminating against people with low level marijuana offenses. This clearly is not a real fix, and many employers will still discriminate for these reasons.  This is why it is so important to seek an expungement after ANY arrest.

In other news, Brick Township just held a hearing regarding whether or not to ban the sale of marijuana in Brick.  They voted to join the growing list of towns who have done so ahead of legalization.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 2/11/19

Governor Murphy’s administration has stated that they are “darn close” to a agreement on the legalization bill.  They will be trying to hurry with the matter as they soon will have to finalize their budgets for the year, budgets which they hope to balance with legal marijuana’s tax revenues.  The tax rates seem to be one of the last sticking points, however a final version of the bill is not yet decided.  We may see a vote as early as this week, but we have heard this all before.

If a bill does not pass soon, it may be left up to the ballot in the next elections. If NJ did take this path, however, things like automatic expungements and social justice measures would not be automatically included. Because of this, it will be far better if the legislature can do a vote before a referendum.

Hawaii & Pennsylvania Legalization Update - 2/11/19

Hawaii may soon be going legal.  A bill was introduced last month that would legalize recreational marijuana.  The bill has unanimously been given the green light by the Judiciary Committee.  This is a very good sign that we may soon get a vote on the full measure in Hawaii, adding it to the growing list of progressive states.

Pennsylvania will be considering an amendment to its medical marijuana bill (a bill which passed with overwhelming support), which would allow for recreational use for adults over 21.  Much of the republican controlled senate may yet oppose the measure, but cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have already moved forward by halting the prosecution of low level pot offenses.  PA is still a long way off from legalization but solid moves are being made.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 2/8/19

Senator Scutari, the man responsible for one of the pending marijuana legalization bills in NJ, said yesterday that the legislature may be in agreement as early as next week.  If this is true, a vote may soon follow and legalization soon after.  There were no real specifics given, so we will have to wait and see.

New York Legalization Update - 2/4/19

New York’s legalization effort is stumbling again.  Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has recently said that lawmakers may not make the March 31st deadline (for budget submissions).  This would mean a vote for legalization will have to wait until the next session, delaying progress.  There aren’t many specifics as to what is causing the delay, but it seems they are still trying to hammer out the fine details.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 1/16/19

Now that the legislature has resolved their issues regarding the $15 minimum wage, they are trying to refocus on legalization.  The current sticking point relates to the tax rate to be imposed on legal weed.  Senate President Sweeney  doesn’t want to budge the tax rate over 12% while Governor Murphy wants 25%.  A new proposal is to set a tax based on weight rather than as an excise tax per purchase.  Hopefully this will resolve the issues and get legalization back on track.

United States Legalization Update - 1/30/19

The upcoming nominee for U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, has pledged to not go after companies who operate pursuant to state law legalization provisions.  He has now put that pledge in writing, saying “I do not intend to go after parties who have complied with state law in reliance on the Cole Memorandum.”  If confirmed, this gives the legal weed world hope that they can operate without harassment from the Federal Government, and that perhaps banking laws, etc., will soon catch up.

New York Legalization Update - 1/17/19

New York State’s Governor Cuomo yesterday outlined some points on his legalization plan.  Like NJ, there will be different operating licenses for growers, distributors, and sellers.  There will be a 20% State tax in addition to a 2% municipal tax, similar to NJ’s plan.  Some areas can opt out of it and ban all such operations within their borders, just like dozens of NJ municipalities have already done.  Like NJ as well, they plan to give priority to license applicants who are women or minorities.

United States Legalization Update - 1/16/19

New legislation is in the works to restore parts of President Obama’s administrations guidance (the Cole Memo, which was rescinded by Trump) on marijuana prosecutions.  It will be called the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act, and will provide many benefits for the legalization movement.  While not per se decriminalizing or legalizing weed nationwide, it will again get the Federal Government out of the hair of State’s who which to regulate and legalize.  

Under the bill, marijuana may be taken off the Controlled Substances Act and instead be regulated legally as is happening in many states and akin to alcohol.  Further, it will stop the federal authorities from pursuing most low-level pot cases. Hopefully the bill will make it through the torturous legislative process.  We should know more over the next few months.

Rhode Island Legalization Update - 1/16/19

Rhode Island may soon start the push to legalize.  Governor Gina Raimondo is said to be preparing an announcement next week, coming out in support of legalization.  The main impetus for this change of stance appears to relate to the fact that numerous neighboring states have legalized.  Rhode Island probably still has a long time to go until they get a bill through the legislature, but the Governors support can only serve to expedite this.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 1/16/19

Legalization is stumbling, with a meeting to discuss same last week cancelled.    Officials are still trying to come to agreement on several issues and some ancillary bills such as the $15 minimum wage change.  This is not to say that they are not still working on legalization or that we won’t get it, but it does mean that we are still left to wait.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 1/8/19

Although the progress in NJ to legal weed is probably unstoppable at this point, fear mongers are still trying to make it otherwise.  A coalition of mayors, police, and others, along with the group Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy (RAMP), continue to spew their same tired rhetoric.  They claim that legalization will somehow bring MORE drug dealers, increase hard drug use, homelessness, joblessness, and drugged driving.  They offer to support for these theories except for wildly misinterpreted studies from Colorado, but what else can we expect from proponents of Reefer Madness.

Pennsylvania Legalization Update - 1/8/19

Congressional Representative Jake Wheatley Jr. has announced a memo in which he seeks support for a bill, expected to be released soon, which would legalize recreational use marijuana in the State.  Although Pennsylvania has been slower to embrace the legalization movement that New York or New Jersey, things finally are starting to heat up and we may see further movement on this soon.

New York Legalization Update - 1/8/19

New York’s legislative session starts today and legalization is one of the hot button issues that will be getting hashed out.  We have no true indication on the amount of support any legalization bill will have, but it seems highly likely a bill will have enough support to pass in 2019.  The current timeline regarding the State’s budget (due in April) means that they may try pushing a bill through beforehand as they will wish to use tax revenue from the sale of legal weed to bolster their coffers.   

New York Legalization Update - 12/20/18

Governor Andrew Cuomo this week announced his intention to make marijuana recreationally available in New York.  He has challenged law makers to complete this within the first 100 days of 2019.  While this is ambitious, hopefully it will be up for fewer delays than we have been experiencing in New Jersey.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 12/18/18

The NJ Senate decided yesterday to not hold the vote on legalization.  There is no new time frame except that they will likely try to schedule a vote in the first quarter of 2019.  

New Jersey Legalization Update - 12/3/18

This past week, a Warren County government board voted against legalization.  While this doesn’t necessarily effect legalization efforts state wide, or even county wide, it may encourage townships within Warren County to bar the sale, manufacture, and growth of marijuana (although not possession) within their individual town borders.

Hoboken (Hudson County) has enacted a temporary ban for marijuana shops and distributors.  While they are not saying that pot will not ever be sold within Hoboken, the temporary ban gives them more time to make these decisions, should weed be legalized.  There is another ordinance proposed that will limit such distributors to a maximum of 3 establishments within Hoboken borders, and these would likely have to be within the industrial zones.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 11/28/18

The legalization bill in front of the Assembly Committee this past Monday (described below) has passed by a margin of 7 to 3, with one abstention.  A similar senate panel approved the bill 7 to 4, with two abstentions. What this means is NJ is finally taking steps to proceed with full recreational legalization.  This does not mean that weed is now legal, rather it means the bill can proceed to be heard and voted on by the full congress.  A date for this has not yet been finalized, with December 17th being floated as a date for the final vote, where it will need approval by 41 members of the Assembly and 21 of the Senate.

The current bill allows for landlords to dictate where and if marijuana will be usable within the grounds of the relevent property.  The tax rate will be 12% and include a nominal $25 fine for anyone caught purchasing from unlicensed distributors/dealers.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 11/23/18

A legalization bill has been near finalized and will be going to vote in committee as soon as this coming Monday the 26th.  If it passes in committee, a vote with the full senate and assembly sometime next month.  The current bill maintains a 12% tax rate with an addition 2% available to individual municipalities.  This is in opposition to Governor Murphys request for a 25% tax.  The bill also increases the availability for expungements not just for marijuana cases but expands the process for other crimes as well.

Union Township has voted preemptively to allow for legalization within town borders, should marijuana become recreationally available.  Bridgeton and Vineland respectively also seem to support recreational use and medical.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 11/6/18

Obviously the October 29th deadline to vote on legalization has passed without any news.  Legislators are now hoping to vote by the end of the year.  Governor Murphy still appears committed to making recreational weed legal and it still seems likely that full legalization will happen sooner rather than later.   

Montavle (Bergen), Oakland (Bergen) and Sayreville (Middlesex) have both voted to bar the sale and growth of recreational pot within their borders.  See below for the full list of towns who have so far barred pot ahead of legalization.

News has been scarce as to what is going on with legalization in NJ, but we will keep you updated with any significant news.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 10/18/18

Legislators have introduced bills to allow for the creation of a new marijuana specific banking system.

Freehold Township (Monmouth) has adopted an ordinance barring the growth and sale of marijuana within its borders, pre-empting upcoming legalization efforts.  They join the list of towns below which have done the same.  Unlike many other towns, however, Mayor Anthony Amniano, seems to leave open the possibility of changing course once they see what the full legalization bill will entail and if it sufficiently safeguards Freehold residents.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 10/10/18

As a follow up to last week's news about Westwood Mayor John Birkner, Jr., veto of a town wide cannabis ban; as expected the town counsel overturned his veto and pot operations once again will be banned within town limits.  

Old Tappan is now also drafting a bill to prohibit cannabis operations, distribution, growth, etc.  

Draft bills for updates on NJ’s medical marijuana program seem to include a provision which would allow the president of the soon to be created Cannabis Regulatory Commission with the power to unilaterally add certain conditions that qualify under the medical program.  The president will be advised by a medical panel, but overall this move can greatly increase access for people whose diseases should qualify them but technically does not under current legislative guidelines.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 10/2/18

Freehold Township is set this Thursday to vote on a cannabis ban ahead of legalization efforts.  They join Palisades Park, and a growing number of towns (listed below) which recently voted on such a ban.  In Westwood, the Mayor, John Birkner, Jr., has also just voted a ban that was approved by the town council.  The ban will likely stay in place as his veto will almost certainly be overridden by the strong majority of the council.  Finally, Chatham Township voted to approve an ordinance barring the smoking of weed in public and barring smoking establishments.  This is in furtherance of their general cultivation and sale ban they voted on last April.

One thing that medical marijuana patients have to look out for is discrimination in employment.  Currently, patients can still be fired for testing positive for pot.  There may be an amendment in the current laws that will stop this practice, but until then the state of the law is in limbo.  Thus far, NJ courts have sided with employers on this issue.  A new case out of Connecticut, Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Company, LLC, d/b/a Bride Brook Nursing & Rehab Center, has taken the side of the employee.  Although it makes no sense to allow any other prescription drug and discriminating against cannabis use, hopefully this case, although not binding in NJ, may help persuade the tide of change.  We’ll keep you updated with any changes in the law to fix this situation.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 9/19/18

(1) NJ has finally waived a restriction which had barred medical marijuana patients from buying and distributors from selling vape concentrates and cartridges.  

As legalization edges closer, the actual legislative bills are starting to take form. (2) The current draft proposes a 10% tax on sales.  This number is by far the lowest in the nation and is a number that others, including Governor Murphy, appose.  It also appears that smoking lounges may be allowed, at least on premises of actual distributors.  It is unclear as of now whether or not individual stores like cigar shops will be allowed to have smoking of weed inside. (3) The bill also mandates 25% of licenses to sell marijuana go to women, minorities, and veterans. (4) At least 10% of licenses also have to be given to small operations, perhaps allowing for the corner store of pot. (5) It does not appear that homegrown weed will be allowed, but hopefully this is a change that comes later.  It is not surprising that this has been left out, given the State’s focus on taxation.

New York Legalization Update - 9/13/18

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., last night threw out over three thousand marijuana cases.  This is in line with AG Eric Gonzalez’s request earlier this week (see below). They also threw out related warrants for failing to appear, with some cases going back over 30 years.  Hopefully New Jersey will soon take similar measures.  We should have more information on that by the end of the month, when the NJ Senate President has stated he expects a vote on legalization.  

New York Legalization Update - 9/7/18

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has a new initiative for helping out people formerly prosecuted for marijuana possession.  He would like to invite people convicted in Brooklyn for cannabis cases since 1990 to request conviction dismissals.  This appears to be a run around expungement laws and meant to expedite clearing peoples criminal records.  This in turn is expected to help people find jobs, get governmental assistance, get housing opportunities, and assist with immigration issues.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 9/7/18

Bridgewater Township has put forth an ordinance banning the sale and growth of recreational marijuana within town borders.  It is expected to have passed, joining a small list of other towns who have done the same.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 9/6/18

NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's initial order to halt all marijuana prosecutions statewide 7/25/18 (see below) has expired.  He has, as promised, released guidance to prosecutors as to how to move forward with such cases. Unfortunately, his new memo is essentially a restatement of how possession prosecutions were already being handled.  We had been hoping for a broader directive, allowing prosecutors to drop cases flat out, but we will have to wait for full on legalization for that dream.  In the meantime, all prosecutions that had been on hold since 7/25/18 are now being reinstated.  

Our next hope is that the legislature will put legalization to a vote.  There are rumors that this may happen as quickly as the end of the month.  We’ll update you as the news comes in.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 8/28/18

Senator Scutari, one of the two original proponents are recreational legalization in NJ has stated that great progress is being made.  He says as of now, it is proposed that legalization be controlled by a 5-member commission which oversees enforcement and regulation.  Apparently major concerns such as how pot should be regulated, how many shops should be allowed, and expedited expungements for marijuana crimes has already been hammered out.  Details are slim and we will keep you up to date as they come in.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 8/23/18

Our Senate President, Steve Sweeney, has recently stated that he believes legalization may happen very soon, perhaps by early October, late September.  He says that they now have enough votes to pass such a bill, including former holdouts who were against legalization.  The bill has not yet been finalized yet, although there have been some drafts proposed.  Some of the outstanding issues will be the level of taxation on legal weed, how much should be available for purchase at a time, what to do with tax proceeds, and what to do with expungements for people convicted for possession in years past.

Ahead of this, West Caldwell (Essex County) has joined the ever-growing list of towns that has preemptively banned the growth and sale of recreational pot within its borders when and if the legalization bill eventually does pass.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 8/6/18

Clifton joins the growing list of towns which are banning marijuana sales town wide, before it becomes legal statewide.  The following towns have similar bans.  Manville (Somerset), Berkeley (Ocean County), Brick (Ocean), Carlstadt (Bergen), Cranbury (Middlesex), Clifton (Passaic), East Rutherford (Bergen), Garfield (Bergen), Freehold (Monmouth), Hasbrouck Heights (Bergen), Hazlet (Monmouth), Lodi (Bergen), Mahwah (Bergen), Montvale (Bergen), North Caldwell (Essex), Oakland (Bergen), Palisades Park (Bergen), Point Pleasant Beach (Ocean), Sayreville (Middlesex), Upper Freehold (Monmouth), Wall (Monmouth), Washington Township, Weehawken (Hudson), West Caldwell (Essex), Woodcliff Lake (Bergen), Westwood (Bergen).  These bans do not stop the use of marijauna if legalized but merely the sale. You will then be able to buy elsewhere and bring it into those towns.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 8/6/18

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, has come out in support of legalization.  A former strong opponent to the movement, has been persuaded by a variety of things, but especially the unfair enforcement of pot laws regarding minorities. As more and more top law makers publicly favor recreational cannabis, we become ever more likely to make that a reality.  

New Jersey Legalization Update - 7/25/18

There has been a significant update following the events discussed in the 7/23/18.  Attorney General Grewal has issued another memorandum requesting all municipal prosecutors to adjourn and temporarily hold off on marijuana cases until September 4th, 2018.  He will then update them on whether or not they may exercise their discretion to dismiss or not enforce pot cases.  As such, three possibilities seem to exist:

(1) It seems possible that as a part of Governor Murphy’s (a legalization advocate) appointees that the result of what happens on September 4th may be a prosecutorial decriminalization of marijuana.  Normally this would have to be done by the legislature to legalize, however if no one is enforcing the laws on the books, which currently hold pot as illegal, it may be almost as if it has been legalization.  This would be a creative and beautiful move by the Governor to decriminalize, though legalization for recreational sales would still have to follow through the legislature.  

(2) They may also fully leave discretion up to the individual municipal prosecutors.  This would mean that certain towns which take a harder stance on weed, would prosecute, while others don't.  

(3) They may also stick with their initial decision that they have no authority to not prosecute, essentially leaving the matter at the status quo.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 7/24/18

On a lighter note, it appears certain opponents to legalization only really have a problem with certain aspects of recreational use.  Democratic Senator Ron Rice has stated he has an issue with marijuana infused sex toys and oils.  Clearly, this issue is far beyond the merits of legalization and is being used a talking point.  

Assemblyman Jamel Holley is taking a far better approach and simply saying that expedited expungements need to be a part of legalization.

New Jersey Legalization Update - 7/23/18

Jersey City has attempted to, and still may be attempting to enact a pseudo decriminalization of pot.  One of New Jersey’s largest cities and an area with a heavily minority population, has stated their intent to no longer prosecute simple possession charges.  This does not apply to the distribution of weed.

Mayor Steve Fulop and Jersey City prosecutor Jake Hadnut issued a memo advising the municipal prosecutors to not prosecute or fully dismiss many cases.  State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has told them that they have no authority to do so.  A.G. Grewal may technically be entirely correct, but that may not stop Jersey City from following their original plan.  This is especially so given that the A.G. is a an appointee of Governor Murphy, a legalization supporter.  The A.G.’s office also specifically stated that they are not taking a position on legalization generally, thereby perhaps indicating that they will not enforce this technicality.  

New Jersey Legalization Update - 7/18/18

Senator Jamel Holley, of Union County, has proposed changes to Senator Scutari’s legalization bill.  This is a response to critics of Scutari’s bill didn’t go far enough to address the social issues regarding the legalization of cannabis. Among the amendments, Holley would have no limits on the number of dispensaries, expedite expungements for people with marijuana possession records, help underprivileged communities partake in business of legalization, set up mandatory spending for the tax revenues from legal weed. This final amendment would be aimed at ensuring a percentage of the monies would go to social projects such as education and drug prevention programs.

New York Legalization Update - 7/16/18

As discussed below, the NY Department of Health has issued its full findings in a lengthy analysis reviewing whether or not marijuana should be legalized.  The report states that legalization is a better alternative to the present criminalization of weed.  This puts us one step closer to science based approaches to pot, and to recreation legality in New York State.  Ahead of a vote, the legislature will have to decide the limits of legality, such as who, where, when, and what types of marijuana will be able to be sold and consumed.

United States Marijuana Legalization 7/6/18

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer recently announced a bill to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level, meaning country wide.  The bill, entitled the “Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act” seems to be pretty robust and multifaceted.  It allows for grant programs to be created to assist defendants convicted for the simple possession of weed to expunge their criminal record. It would further decriminalize possession Federally, meaning they Federal government wouldn’t interfere with states that decide to legalize. It would also create a large medical research grant for further developments in the medical applications of marijuana.  Senator Bernie Sanders has come out and co-sponsored the bill as well.

New Jersey Legalization Update 7/5/18

Things may be speeding up again for the fight for recreational use pot in NJ.  Although the bills were tabled as the legislature sorted out the state budget, Senate President Steve Sweeney has recently indicated that he predicts legalization by the end of the summer.  With that said, there is still a lot of opposition to legalization and nothing is certain as of now.

United States Marijuana Legalization 6/28/18

There has been a lot of talk recently about allowing States to enact marijuana legalization laws without violating federal law.  Currently, legalization is in limbo as far as federal law.  Weed is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is categorized under the most stringent banned substances.  A recent bill, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, may change all of this.  The bill, if passed, will allow for the growth, distribution, consumption, and possession, as long as the laws of the governing State are followed.  It will also allow for financial institutions to finally get involved with marijuana and the assets generated therefrom.  This means that businesses may longer have this barrier to contend with when filing for loans or deposits.  President Trump seems to support this bill, but who knows what the legislature or him will actually do.  Stay tuned for more news as it evolves.

New Jersey Legalization Update 6/28/18

Legalization efforts have stalled for this legislative term.  Decisions as to this have been shelved until next session and until a State budget is agreed to regarding the rest of NJ.  This delays hopes of pot being recreationally available in NJ, but does not necessarily hurt its chances going forward.

Canadian Marijuana Legalization

We don’t normally talk about anywhere besides the tristate area, but in huge news this week, the Canadian Senate has passed a bill (by a wide margin) legalization recreational pot.  This makes Canada only the second (third if you count North Korea) country in the world to legalize, the first being Uruguay.  Legalization should go into effect sometime in September.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, even though he has come out in the past against weed, has shown great support for the bill.  The terms of legalization still need to be fully hammered out, but generally will probably have an age requirement of 18.  This age requirement can, and probably will be, upped by the individual provinces (Most appear to be opting for a minimum 19).  Some provinces will be far more lenient on legal weed, with Alberta already likely to have over 200 dispensaries, and Ontario only 40.  In any event, this is very good news and sets a precedent for the United States in the fight to legalize.

New York Update 6/20/18

New York Commissioner of Health, Howard Zucker, is in the process of finalized the long awaited Marijuana Legalization report, and has preliminarily found that the benefits of legalization outweigh the negatives.  This report is expected to be considered by top NY officials as we continue the march to recreational legalization in New York.  The legislature in Albany will be closing up this week for the year and so it is highly unlikely that we will see any significant developments before 2019.

In further news, the NYPD will start giving summonses for people caught smoking weed, rather than arresting them and processing them regularly.  This policy extends what was already put into place for people caught in possession but without actually being caught in the act of smoking or vaping.  One caveat of this change is that people will have to tender their ID and cannot be on parole or probation to be able to take advantage of this, or otherwise risk being arrested normally.  Additionally, this obviously does not relate to driving while high or smoking and driving in the DWI context.  This new procedure will be in effect starting September 1st, 2018.  The summons will consist of a $100 fine and a required court appearance but won’t lead to a criminal record.

New Jersey Update 6/18/18

Barnegat Township has introduced an ordinance banning the sale and growth of pot within town borders if it is eventually legalized statewide.  There will be a meeting on this on July 3rd.  Hopefully the ordinance is not approved and added to an ever-expanding list of NJ towns preemptively banning pot.

Since 1990, around 1,000,000 people have in New Jersey alone have been convicted for various weed related offenses.  Hopefully legalization happens soon! Stay tuned.

NJ Update 6/11/18

One of South New Jersey’s largest dispensaries, Compassionate Care Foundation, has announced a massive expansion.  It plans to open up two new stores, one in both Moorestown and Cherry Hill, as well as adding 135,000 square feet of cultivation.

Update 6/8/18 - Canada

Although this page concerns mostly the tristate area, it is interesting to note legal changes throughout North America and the world.  Canada has come out in support of marijuana legalization country wide.  They will be leaving the specifics up to various provinces, but this is a big move as Canada will now be only the second country (Uruguay legalized recently and perhaps North Korea) in the world to legalize pot.  

NJ Update 6/8/18

Woodcliff Lake of Bergen County NJ, has approved an ordinance essentially banning the sale or production of marijuana.  They join a growing list of NJ towns against weeds legalization, even ahead of it actually becoming legal statewide.   See below for a fuller list of all the towns in New Jersey that have followed suit.

New Jersey towns will only be allowed 6 months post legalization to ban its sale within their borders.  As such, many are moving early to get this done, others are surely yet to come.

NJ Legalization Update, 6/5/18

The Township of Mahwah, as well as Carlstadt, both of Bergen County, have come out against recreational legalization of pot.  

There has been further talk about automatic expungements and other expungement relief, for low level marijuana possession and even some low level marijuana distribution cases.  The president emeritus of New Jersey’s Municipal Prosecutors Association, has even come out in support of such efforts.  There have been approximately 400,000 possession convictions for weed since 2008.  Although such a bill would expedite such procedures, many defendants can currently apply to have their weed convictions expunged.

NY Legalization Update, 6/5/18

Similar to the above New Jersey news, New York may also be contemplating automatic expungements for all low-level weed possession cases.  This cause is supported, at the very least by NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.  

The marijuana legalization report, ordered by Governor Cuomo, discussed below, should be out in the next few days.  Town hall meetings are being set up at public libraries in Albany, Berne, Guilderland, Cohoes, and Delmar, for the public to be heard on their concerns and thoughts on legalization generally. We will post more news as it comes in.

 

Pennsylvania Marijuana News:

Pennsylvania appears primed to dramatically expand its medical marijuana program.  There was a deadline of May 17th for growers and dispensary’s to apply for new permits.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health will now make decisions as to which permits to issue, but it is expected to nearly double current capacity.  This is not recreational use, but hopefully PA will soon join NJ and NY on their evolving view on legalized pot.

New York Marijuana Legalization Update, 5/30/18

As described in the 5/14/18 update, New York Democrats have officially voted on and passed a resolution on legalizing marijuana. Democrats are overwhelmingly the dominant political party in New York and so with the group calling for legalization across New York State, we can probably expect to see some sort of movement on the issue soon.  

 

New York Marijuana Legalization Update, 5/22/18

Mayor de Blasio stated this week that the city must plan for the reality that marijuana will be most likely legalized in the near future.  This is in addition to his direction, discussed below, a week ago that the police review and amend their procedures and policies for arresting people for the possession of weed.

New Jersey Pot Legalization Update, 5/22/18

A bill was introduced last week to the legislature that would significantly expand NJ’s medical marijuana program.  Specifically, if passed, it will raise the amount of pot allowed to 2.5 ounces from 2 ounces; remove limitations on hospice care; permit edibles for minors; allow prescriptions for 180 days rather than 90; allow patients to go to any dispensary rather than just one; give legal protection against discrimination for marijuana using patients; remove doctor registration requirements so that more doctors can prescribe weed.

*The Borough of Manville has come out late last week with a zoning ordinance aimed at barring all sales of pot, both recreational and medical, within the towns borders.

 

New York Marijuana Legalization Update, 5/17/18

New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., stated this week that the Borough of Manhattan will essentially stop prosecuting marijuana possession cases starting on August 1st.  The reasons cited for this change are both the growing legalization movement and the racially disparate treatment of prosecutions for weed. This step is in addition to the fact that pot was essentially 'decriminalized' in NYC in 2014 by Mayor de Blasio, as well as his statement ordering the NYPD to review their policies for the enforcement of pot laws.  Presumably this new change is only going to be effective in Manhattan, although Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez says he is scaling back their pot possession prosecutions, and have already done so by half.

 

Update 5/14/18

Governor Murphy reportedly is considering “wide sweeping” pardons for marijuana convictions leading up to or after recreational legalization.  Whether he ultimately chooses to do so or whether he has the authority to pardon so many thousands of weed possession convictions remains to be seen.  If he does pardon such cases, current prosecutions may disappear and old convictions may be subject to immediate expungement.  

New York Marijuana Legalization Update, 5/14/18

The New York Post has reported that the NY Democratic Party has plans to pass a resolution endorsing marijuana recreational legalization.  A meeting is currently planned for May 23rd at which this proposal will be heard.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean pot will be legalized in NY, it does signal openness and hope that it soon will be, particularly if Gubernatorial nominees such as Cynthia Nixon who has committed to legalization are voted in.

 

Update 4/25/18

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, has stated that the State will be training more police officers as drug recognition examiners (DRE).  This seems to be relevant to the push to legalize pot in New Jersey, as it is feared that there will be an uptick in high driving.  New Jersey currently has about 400 DRE’s within the state who are trained in drug detection.

*Old Bridge Township has voted to ban the sale of marijuana if it does become legalized.

 

Update 4/16/18 - United States

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner has confirmed that President Trump told him that he will not be seeking federal enforcement of Marijuana laws on the State level.  This means that although Attorney General Sessions has taken away the protections given by the Cole memo, enacted under President Obama.  Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee has confirmed these statements.  It does not seem that pot will be legalized on a national level, but rather the federal government will not interfere with state’s which legalize, and may settle tax collection issues. 

 

Update 4/16/18 - New York

Candidate for Governor of New York, Cynthia Nixon, has publicly announced that a centerpiece of her election run will be on Marijuana Legalization.  Funnily enough, she has asked for donations in denominations of $4.20.  Governor Cuomo’s former anti cannabis position seems to have also eased, as he formed a panel to review legalization prospects.  He also just commented that due to legalization in Massachusetts earlier this year, it is inevitable that it will be legalized in New York.

 

3/28/18

Medical marijuana in NJ is being expanded.  So far five new conditions, anxiety, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders and visceral origin pain, migraines, and Tourette’s syndrome, now qualify for the program.  Additionally, dispensaries will now be allowed to open satellite locations as well as having their application process expedited.

3/26/18 - New Jersey Towns Banning Recreational Marijuana Sales

The following towns have embraced zoning laws / ordinances against legalization:  Manville (Somerset), Upper Freehold (Monmouth), Berkeley (Ocean County), Carlstadt (Bergen), Cranbury (Middlesex), Garfield (Bergen), Hasbrouck Heights (Bergen), Hazlet (Monmouth), Mahwah (Bergen), North Caldwell (Essex), Point Pleasant Beach (Ocean), Wall (Monmouth), Weehawken (Hudson), Woodcliff Lake (Bergen).  Old Bridge (Middlesex) has finished the first half of their process to approve an ordinance blocking marijuana sales within their borders.  Spotswood (Middlesex) - A bill approved, although not an outright ban, significantly curtails the possibility of marijuana based businesses.  Importantly, however, these towns do not have the authority to disallow private use of marijuana if legalized, and only can ban the sale, manufacture, etc.

The following towns are awaiting votes or other action to determine whether or not they will follow suit with the formerly listed townships.  Chatham Township (Morris), Hawthorne (Passaic), Middletown (Monmouth), Oceanport (Monmouth), Parsippany-Troy Hills (Morris), Seaside Heights (Ocean), Toms River (Ocean), Fairfield (Essex).

The following towns appear to have come out in favor of legalization and presently are not anticipated to block marijuana sales.  Asbury Park (Monmouth), Jersey City (Hudson).  Jersey City may be changing their stance as they are expected this week to hear a measure to ban distribution, manufacture, etc., throughout the city.  Another measure is looking to simply contain these activities to areas where it will not affect residents.  

At present as Monmouth, Ocean, and Cape May counties are in opposition to any legalization bill at the state level and within their borders.  Within their borders it will be more up to individual towns to block pot sales, but the county does hold some sway.

 

3/16/18

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s bill calls for up to 400 dispensaries being permitted.  It also calls for a lower tax rate on legal pot sales in New Jersey.  This bill still would allow for home grown weed, permitting up to 6 plants, with 3 being mature or flowering at a single time.  Governor Murphey still plans to try to have marijuana legalized in NJ by January 1st, 2019.  Advocates are still trying to convince many of legalizations benefits.  One of the main blocks of opponents lay in law enforcement and DUI enforcement.  Police say that there are no good tests to test for marijuana intoxication like there are for alcohol, where chemical breath testing is readily available.  Even so, things are moving forward, and a legalization bill will likely go hand in hand with the upcoming budget deals.

 

Update 3/8/18

Immediate expungement of records of low level marijuana convictions is finally on the table!  Annette Quijano, a NJ State Assemblywoman this week introduced a bill that would allow for this, freeing from the stigma attached to having a drug conviction on their record.  If passed, this bill would make finding federal housing, obtaining student loans, finding employment, etc., far easier.  

 

Update 2/19/18

On Thursday, February 15th, NJ assemblyman Reed Gusciora, introduced a new bill to amend New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.  This is separate from the recreational legalization bill he has been advocating.  The new bill would allow for 12 more dispensaries, for a total of 18.  Currently there are only 6 throughout the State, and this has caused trouble for a lot of people to travel to them to get their medicine.  The bill also contemplates adding new 43 medical conditions that would be eligible for medical marijuana, one of which is chronic pain.  Other parts of the bill would quadruple the allowable amount of weed purchased from one (1) ounce, to 4 (4) ounces.  It would increase access to edible, oils and other marijuana products.  Currently only one of the 6 dispensaries sell anything more than raw marijuana to be smoked.  It would further allow doctors generally to prescribe the medicine rather than only allowing a few specific doctors to do so.  Obviously, this represents a huge increase to access to medical marijuana, particularly if recreational legalization fails.  Stay tuned.

Update 2/15/18

Toms River town council has voted to table a possible town ordinance that would ban the sale of pot.  This does not mean that this will not come into play later on, but it does show some more openness to the possibility of allowing recreational marijuana in the town.

Bridgewater Township, Councilman Matthew Moench, seems to be urging the town to preemptively ban legalized recreational marijuana. We’ll keep you up to date if his ill thought-out plan is ever successful. 

A lot of the arguments against the legalization of pot revolve around the supposed increased traffic accidents and DUI consequences.  These allegations that marijuana legalization increases DUI and Accidents have been repeatedly debunked.

Update 2/9/18

On March 5, the NJ Assembly’s committee on Oversight, Reform & Federal Relations will be having a meeting to hear the publics thoughts on cannabis legalization

News

Legal marijuana access is likely going to increase this year in New Jersey.  Weed legalization bills have passed the NJ legislature in past years, they were vetoed by former governor Chris Christie.  Our new Governor, Phil Murphy, states that he is unopposed to such changes in the law.  Currently the simple possession of pot carries many penalties.

Senate Bill No. 830, New Jersey’s latest marijuana legalization bill, was introduced to the Senate on January 9, 2018.  S830 (also the companion bill spoken about below A1348) allows people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot (28 grams), 16 ounces of solid edibles, 72 ounces of drinkables, 7 grams of marijuana concentrate and grow up to 6 plants with only three of them being mature at any one time.  The law does not allow for public open use.  The bill will deny employers, without good cause, for taking action against employees for their pot use outside the workplace.  Governor Phil Murphy has promised to sign marijuana legalization bills into law and so this version may be what is eventually signed into law.

Home grown provisions are newly introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.  Formerly the bills did not include a legal method by which NJ residents could grow their own weed in the comfort of their home.  

Much of the opposition comes from people believing legalization will lead to more DUI’s and Traffic Deaths.  According to various studies, marijuana legalization has not caused increased traffic accidents / deaths.

Many towns and counties are thinking of opting out of the legalization and not permitting distributors on their lands.  While it would still become decriminalized or fully legal to possess in these areas, sale of the pot might not be allowed.  Ocean County has thus far come out against legalization.  Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Litle, has seemingly even made the patently wrong assertion that because pot is a Schedule 1 drug, it must be more addictive cocaine, a Schedule 2 drug. Berkeley Township, Point Pleasant Beach, and Seaside Heights have so far decided they will not allow the sale of weed.  The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders have also come out publically against legalization in general, although there is not yet a specific plan to ban it if it becomes legal.

Asbury park and Jersey City have both come out in support of legalization.

 

New York Marijuana Legalization News

In February of 2017, Governor Cuomo stated that he is unconvinced on recreational marijuana.  He appears to be reconsidering that stance as of January 2018, after commenting on the fact that New York sits between both Vermont and Massachusetts who have already legalized, and New Jersey where legalization of recreational pot may soon be a reality.  Polls seem to indicate that a majority of voters, particularly young voters, support the legalization of weed.  

Governor Cuomo, in 2014, signed New York’s medical marijuana law.  

Marijuana Legalization in New York has taken interesting turns, here is an article going far more in-depth on the issue of lobbying, etc.

See above updates for more pot legalization news.

 

United States Marijuana Legalization News

In 2017, Senator Cory Booker proposed the Marijuana Justice Act.  If enacted, this would end the U.S. governments listing of pot as a Schedule 1 drug.  Schedule 1 drugs include certain other likely misclassified drugs such as LSDMDMA, and Psilocybin, as well as more harmful drugs like Bath Salts, Heroin, and GHB.  The bill also would incentivize legalization of weed in states whose drug laws disproportionately affect minorities (this would be most states).

Republican Senator Thom Tillis, a member of the senate judiciary committee alongside Senator Booker, while cautious, seems to agree with Booker and will likely be pushing for legalization along with him.  While the bill seems unlikely to pass in the near term, given the Republican dominated legislature, it is something to keep an eye on in the future.

 See above for continuing news.

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