It was last month that New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure on Nov. 3 to legalize regulated cannabis.
As the Garden State’s lawmakers continue to work out the legislation, the attorney general has told prosecutors to put a hold on cases that charge possession of small amounts of marijuana.
“All New Jersey municipal, county, and state prosecutors are instructed to seek an adjournment, until at least Jan. 25, 2021,” of low-level marijuana crimes, wrote state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in guidance distributed to the state’s top law enforcement officers.
It should be noted that Grewal’s directive does not cover driving under the influence and he did not order police to stop arresting people for small amounts of marijuana.
The law will go into effect on Jan. 1, though it may take a year or more for a program to be enacted.
Police in New Jersey continue to arrest about 100 people a day on low level marijuana charges, according to advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
Grewal asked prosecutors to “use their discretion” if there are more serious charges included on top of a marijuana offense.
“Fairness and justice require that we, as prosecutors, not move forward with charges that the Legislature may foreclose in the near future,” Grewal wrote. “We will provide more comprehensive guidance, including direction on handling of previously adjudicated matters, when the Legislature provides details of the framework for marijuana decriminalization and the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
Senate president Steve Sweeney (D., Gloucester) wrote on Twitter, “We applaud @NewJerseyOAG for taking the necessary steps to finally bring an end to arrests for marijuana possession. Now that the people of NJ have spoken, no one should be subject to facing criminal charges for minimal amounts of this substance.”
Enabling legislation to set up and regulate a state legal-marijuana industry is being delayed as lawmakers debate the number of retailers that will be permitted to operate.
Lawmakers will revisit the legislation on Dec. 7th.