Many new laws and referendums passed on Election Day were overlooked. Perhaps foremost among them were the four states that voted to legalize recreational marijuana — New Jersey included. Related internet searches have already skyrocketed in the past few weeks, especially in neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania. But New Jersey legislators have warned travelers not to venture into the state expecting easy access to recreational weed just yet.
Obviously, marijuana helps many people relax. Others use it to relieve pain for medical purposes. No matter what a person uses it for, though, the drug is still controversial — even when it has already been legalized. The New Jersey referendum will amend the state constitution to make the drug legal, but won’t take full effect until January 1 — and even then, state residents wonder whether or not legislators will take action to regulate the drug before that date approaches.
That means recreational marijuana is still illegal under state law — for the time being, at least.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal explained, “It is important that residents accurately understand the current situation, so they do not inadvertently engage in criminal conduct relating to marijuana — conduct that may be legal in the future once the Legislature acts, but is not presently legal based on [Tuesday’s] vote.”
The attorney general’s office in New Jersey will exercise its right to catch, charge, and prosecute those caught with non-medical marijuana, whether in regards to state residents or visitors jumping the gun on consuming the drug.
A statement released by the office after the amendment was passed said, “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors are reminded of their broad discretion when handling low-level marijuana offenses and are encouraged to exercise it consistent with existing guidance from this office. Under that guidance, law enforcement officers and prosecutors should exercise discretion, but cannot adopt blanket policies that de facto decriminalize marijuana, because doing so would not only impermissibly assume a role that belongs to the Legislature, but would also undermine the framework for legalized cannabis that the electorate approved.”
Keep in mind, not all states seek the public’s opinion on new legislation by voting at the state level. For example, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania recognizes the possible benefits to his communities by legalizing the drug for recreational use, but has asked the legislature to research these potential boons before they take action.
Spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said on Wolf’s behalf: “ [He] has called on the Legislature multiple times to take up legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis, something the vast majority of Pennsylvanians want, but there has been no action to date. The governor has asked the Legislature to focus on two particular benefits of legalization — potential economic growth and much-needed restorative justice.”
That means that the drug might not only be legalized, but also those who have been incarcerated for use or sale of the drug might soon be released or, at the very least, have their cases expunged from record — which will help many people find new jobs.