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The Garden State is leafing through.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Monday signed a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana by adults in the state, following a poll New Jersey voters passed by a wide margin in November.

In addition to legalizing the use and possession by adults of up to 6 ounces of cannabis, the law also creates a regulated market for its sale and restructures the penalties for underage marijuana use.

The question of how to deal with minors in possession threatened to derail Murphy’s approval, which came just hours before the signing deadline.

State lawmakers initially proposed tougher criminal and civil penalties, but caved in after Murphy expressed doubts about the low-level offense disproportionately affecting people of color and unnecessarily channeling them into the justice system criminal.

Under the new rules, marijuana and underage alcohol use will be treated the same and will be subject to a series of increasing penalties, starting with a written warning and ending with a reference to counseling. in drug addiction.

Police are also prohibited by law from searching minors just because they smell marijuana.

In an emailed statement, NORML, a marijuana policy advocacy group, called the development “late,” noting that New Jersey state and local police have filed more than 6,000 marijuana-related charges. since voters weighed in to legalize drugs.

“While we are happy to see the will of New Jersey voters finally enshrined in approved legislation, it was a grotesque failure on the part of elected leaders that it took so long to do so,” said the executive director. by NORML, Erik Altieri. “Although nearly seven in ten New Jersey residents voted in favor of legalization on election day, it took lawmakers 111 days after that vote to reach consensus to enact enabling legislation.

An analysis of arrest statistics by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2020 found that blacks in New Jersey were arrested for marijuana almost three and a half times more often than their white counterparts, despite similar use.

And in 2018, an analysis of national arrest data by NJ.com found that state police made more marijuana-related arrests per capita than 48 other states; only Wyoming stopped more.

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