Fourteen states and DC have now legalized cannabis.
New Jersey has officially become the latest state to allow the recreational use of marijuana.
The New Jersey state legislature passed a series of bills on Monday regulating the sale of cannabis to anyone over the age of 21. Gov. Phil Murphy said he signed the bills later that day.
“This legislation will establish an industry that provides equity and economic opportunity to our communities, while setting minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety issues,” he said in a statement.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure last November that changed the state constitution to allow for the legalization of marijuana.
Under the new rules, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) will monitor cannabis business license applications.
“The legislation further provides for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis proceeds into designated” hit zones “; directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership; and contains fundamental labor protections for individuals who engage in behavior legal with respect to cannabis, “the governor’s office said in a press release.
One of the new laws reforms penalties for low-level marijuana crimes. “Prevents low-level distribution and possession offenses from being used in pretrial, parole, and parole decisions and provides certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation,” according to the governor’s office.
Another part of the approved legislation will enforce the penalties for selling marijuana to people under 21 years of age.
State lawmakers took weeks to draft the bills and pass them due to some concerns about penalties and ensuring that sales were banned to minors.
“Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending up in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model,” Murphy said in a statement.
Advocates who have been lobbying states and the country to legalize and regulate marijuana said that passing the bills was a major victory. DeVaughn Ward, the senior legislative adviser to the nonprofit group Marijuana Policy Project, told ABC News that the New Jersey legislation “will create pathways to restorative justice and equity.”
“It took a lot of commitment and hard work on behalf of the legislative leaders and Governor Murphy to get this done and they are to be commended for their efforts,” he said in a statement.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia allow the sale of recreational and medical marijuana.
The Virginia state legislature is set to vote on a bill that would legalize marijuana in its state, and Governor Ralph Northam has voiced his support.