NJ Attorney General Temporarily Suspends Prosecution of Cannabis Related Offenses

Image of Attorney General Gurbir Grewal

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal

New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, issued a memorandum to New Jersey prosecutors which ordered them to seek adjournments of “any matter involving a marijuana-related offense pending in municipal court.”  The term “adjournment” in legal parlance simply means postponing a court hearing until a future date.  The adjournments being sought are until September 4, 2018.

Attorney General Grewal’s adjournment date seemingly coincides with the general time frame of when Sen. Scutari anticipates that the New Jersey legislature will again consider the issue of legalized adult use cannabis.  Attorney General Grewal has not commented on whether there is an actual connection between the temporary halt in the prosecution of cannabis offenses pending in municipal court and any efforts to legalize cannabis, instead stating that his office is developing “appropriate guidance” for prosecutors.

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Alex concentrates his practice on business litigation and counseling. Alex is the author of the New Jersey Cannabis Counsel blog where he tracks and analyzes developments in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and the potential impact on cannabis businesses in New Jersey. Alex is also a member of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.

Cannabis Law Develops in NJ After Workers Compensation Ruling

Cannabis law continues to develop in New Jersey.  On June 28, 2018, a New Jersey workers’ compensation judge ordered Freehold Township to pay for an injured worker’s medical cannabis.  This is the second time a New Jersey Workers Compensation judge has come to this conclusion, which is a significant step in the development of New Jersey cannabis law.

Freehold Township SealThe attorney arguing for the insurance company who provided workers compensation insurance for Freehold Township argued that the workers compensation court could not order the insurance company to pay for the medical cannabis because cannabis is illegal under federal law.  This argument is called a preemption argument, which means that the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution – which makes federal law “supreme” over state law – should not allow the workers compensation judge to rule in the injured worker’s favor.  The insurance company cited to a June 14, 2018 ruling from the Maine Supreme Court which disallowed medical cannabis in the workers compensation context because of federal law.

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Alex concentrates his practice on business litigation and counseling. Alex is the author of the New Jersey Cannabis Counsel blog where he tracks and analyzes developments in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and the potential impact on cannabis businesses in New Jersey. Alex is also a member of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.

NJ Senators Consider “Impact Zones” in New Cannabis Legalization Bill

New Jersey Counties Map

On June 7, 2018, Sen. Scutari and Sen. Sweeney jointly introduced a new cannabis legalization bill (“the Bill”).  Unlike its predecessors, this bill is empowered by the sponsorship of Sen. Sweeney, the New Jersey Senate President, who has been advocating for cannabis legalization for over a year but previously did not take a step this significant toward making cannabis legalization a reality.

 

This blog will analyze various aspects of this new bill in a multi-part series that will begin with a completely new concept proposed in the Bill: Impact Zones. Continue reading

Alex concentrates his practice on business litigation and counseling. Alex is the author of the New Jersey Cannabis Counsel blog where he tracks and analyzes developments in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and the potential impact on cannabis businesses in New Jersey. Alex is also a member of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.

Municipalities Continue to Voice Opinions on Legal Cannabis

New Jersey’s efforts to legalize adult use recreational cannabis are moving forward, full steam ahead.  While Governor Murphy has somewhat walked back his pledge to sign a legalization bill into law in his first 100 days, he has stated that he is not deterred by Attorney General Sessions and continues to study how legal cannabis has operated in the eight jurisdictions where it is legal.  Moreover, Senator Scutari has reintroduced his legalization bill to the legislature and Deputy State Assembly Majority Leader Reed Gusciora, who co-sponsored Scutari’s bill, also plans to introduce his own competing bill in the coming weeks.  Gusciora’s bill is rumored to allow for home-grows and to limit the number of cannabis businesses who are given licenses.

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Notwithstanding this forward momentum, certain municipalities have launched preemptive attacks on legal cannabis.  The Ocean County Board of Freeholders is expected to approve of a resolution against the legalization of cannabis.  The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders passed a similar resolution last month.  These resolutions do not actually carry any legal authority – the proposed bill requires municipalities (towns) to make the decision about legal cannabis, not counties.  The resolutions are also seemingly premature given that the counties are implementing a ban before there is any consensus about what legal cannabis will actually look like in New Jersey.

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Alex concentrates his practice on business litigation and counseling. Alex is the author of the New Jersey Cannabis Counsel blog where he tracks and analyzes developments in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and the potential impact on cannabis businesses in New Jersey. Alex is also a member of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.

Jeff Sessions Rescinds Cole Memorandum

On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Sessions unveiled a new policy that effectively rescinds the Cole Memorandum, which set forth the Obama Administration’s position that the federal government would not generally not enforce cannabis laws in states where it is legal.  This is an about-face from General Sessions’ recent testimony where he suggested he would maintain the Obama Administration’s position.  General Sessions’ new policy comes at a time where support for legalization has never been higher, as a recent Gallup poll suggested 64% of Americans favor legalization.  Unlike the Cole Memorandum, which discouraged enforcement of cannabis laws, Gen. Sessions’ policy allows US Attorneys to exercise their own judgment as to whether to enforce cannabis laws.

Jeff Sessions

Clearly, General Sessions’ announcement has the potential to have a major impact on the legal cannabis industry.  His new policy, though, has already started a political battle.  Cory Gardner, the Republican Senator from Colorado, immediately took to Twitter to oppose General Sessions’ action, arguing that cannabis policy should be a states’ rights issue.  Sen. Gardner stated that he was “prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”  Presumably, the commitment Sen. Gardner spoke of was adherence to the Cole Memorandum.

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Alex concentrates his practice on business litigation and counseling. Alex is the author of the New Jersey Cannabis Counsel blog where he tracks and analyzes developments in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and the potential impact on cannabis businesses in New Jersey. Alex is also a member of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.

Legal Cannabis and Local New Jersey Government

Understanding the role of local government is critical to the success of potential legal cannabis businesses.  Not only will cannabis businesses need to obtain a license to operate from the Division of Marijuana Enforcement (“DME”), but cannabis businesses will also have to navigate regulations and ordinances set by local governments.

Picture of city hall.

A provision of Senator Scutari’s Bill (“the Bill”) that will invariably cause headaches for legal cannabis entrepreneurs is the local governments section.  The Bill, § 11.  The most complicating aspect of this section of the Bill is that it allows a local government to decide whether it will allow legal cannabis businesses in its borders.  In other words, even if cannabis businesses are deemed legal by the State of New Jersey, individual towns have the right to prohibit them.  Towns are given one year from the date Governor-Elect Murphy signs the Bill into law to decide if legal cannabis businesses will be able to operate in their borders.  If a town does not make a call one way or another, legal cannabis businesses are allowed to operate in the town for five years, and at the end of the five year period, the town is given the opportunity to prohibit the operation of a cannabis business.

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Alex concentrates his practice on business litigation and counseling. Alex is the author of the New Jersey Cannabis Counsel blog where he tracks and analyzes developments in New Jersey’s efforts to legalize recreational cannabis and the potential impact on cannabis businesses in New Jersey. Alex is also a member of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.