On Election Day 2020, the voters of New Jersey will be deciding whether to amend the State’s constitution to allow for the recreational use of marijuana for those aged 21 and older. By many accounts, the initiative does appear likely to pass as New Jersey voters support a marijuana legalization referendum on their ballots by a nearly three-to-one margin.
A Long Time Coming
After Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, many have wondered what lay in store for New Jersey. Indeed, Governor Murphy – elected in 2017 – campaigned on a platform of legalization. The matter, however, did not have necessary support with lawmakers, and has been put directly to the people.
Devil in the Details
What is not clear in this constitutional amendment are the myriad factors that have been stumbling blocks in getting legalization through the State legislature. While the amendment will legalize marijuana for those of age, it leaves the regulation and implementation up to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, an institution created to oversee the state’s medical-marijuana program. Presumably, therefore, a legalized marijuana structure may look a lot like the current medical marijuana structure already in place.
Sure to arise are questions about fairness in retrospect. What about those who have served prison time, lost jobs, or been forced to labor under the shadow of a criminal record for possessing what may very well become a legal substance come November 3?
Expungement, perhaps automatic or semi-automatic, will definitely be on the table before the legislature. But that is an easy question in comparison to the lingering collateral consequences many have suffered for marijuana convictions, and whether they can or will be addressed through structural change. Keep in mind, there are also thousands of residents stopped and/or searched each year here in New Jersey based on the mere allegation of a smell of marijuana, only to be eventually charged with other crimes. Unfortunately, much of this, I suspect, will prove logistically and politically difficult to unscramble to the satisfaction of many whose lives have been negatively impacted by a prior marijuana possession charge or conviction.
Nonetheless, if you or someone you know has been touched by a marijuana possession case and needs legal advice, please contact us to see if we may be of assistance.