Not so fast! NJ voters have spoken but marijuana is still illegal
Be careful about lighting up just yet.
New Jersey law enforcement officials are warning residents that marijuana remains an illegal substance despite an overwhelming vote Tuesday in favor of legalization.
At the same time, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Wednesday also reminded police departments and prosecutors of the "broad discretion they already possess in handling low-level marijuana offenses." In other words, now is not the time to crack down, either.
While the approval of Ballot Question 1 certainly paves the way for legalization, lawmakers in Trenton must still introduce and pass what is known as enabling legislation, which will answer the exact who, what, when and where of legalization. At the minimum, the approved amendment to the state constitution would limit cannabis use to adults at least 21 years old and would apply only to regulated marijuana products.
Other open questions include what will happen to existing criminal convictions, pending prosecutions as well as criminal charges filed between now and when adult-use recreational marijuana becomes fully legal.
Grewal's statement a day after the vote noted that all the existing marijuana laws remain on the books.
"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 yesterday's vote," he said.
Marijuana was expected to be approved by New Jersey voters and received lopsided support in each of the state's 21 counties, regardless of which presidential candidate prevailed among voters.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 1.73 million voters had voted yes while 857,073 voted no.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.