New Jersey Legislators Pass Adult Use Recreational Cannabis Bill

In a significant step towards the legalization of recreational cannabis in the Garden State, the New Jersey state Assembly and Senate passed Bill S21 on Thursday, making New Jersey poised to become just the fourth state on the east coast to legalize recreational cannabis. The Bill establishes the proposed framework of the industry and is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Murphy.

Earlier this fall, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis in New Jersey after the New Jersey legislature was unable to pass an earlier draft of the Bill.

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Success of Medical Program Prompts Newfound Optimism for Recreational Cannabis in New Jersey

New Jersey State Line


Despite the previously held belief that adult use recreational marijuana in New Jersey would have to await a ballot referendum in 2020, there is newfound optimism that a vote on legal cannabis may yet take place this year.  Certain New Jersey lobbyists and industry leaders believe that the success of medical marijuana in New Jersey may prompt a vote on recreational adult use marijuana.  Earlier this year, a recreational adult use marijuana bill cosponsored by Senators Nicholas Scutari and Steven Sweeney was pulled from a vote at the eleventh hour when legislative leadership determined that there were insufficient votes to get the bill passed.  Thus, recreational cannabis in New Jersey will depend on two questions: 1) will a vote take place; and 2) if a vote takes place, will there be enough votes to get the law passed?

This blog will monitor all potential developments in the push for adult use recreational marijuana in New Jersey.

Voters to Decide Fate of Legalized Cannabis in New Jersey

New Jersey State Line


Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced that the legislature is no longer pursuing cannabis legalization through the traditional legislative process.  Instead, the issue of cannabis legalization will be put to a ballot measure in the 2020 election (which coincides with the next presidential election where voter turnout is supposed to be the highest).

Polling data still indicates that a majority of New Jerseyans support legalizing recreational cannabis.  If that is borne out in the 2020 ballot measure, legal cannabis will be a reality in New Jersey – it may simply take more time than originally anticipated.

This blog will continue to track the developments of cannabis law in New Jersey.

NJ Legislature Cancels Vote on Recreational Adult Use Cannabis Legalization Bill


New Jersey State Senate: Photo Credit

On Monday, March 25, the New Jersey Legislature chose not to vote on the adult use cannabis legalization bill that has been the subject of debate for several years.  The vote was delayed due to the lack of support for the bill.  This is certainly a roadblock to adult use cannabis in New Jersey, but the efforts to legalize are not over.  Legislators will continue to debate the merits of cannabis legalization in the hope that the outstanding assemblymen and senators will change their positions and vote in favor of cannabis the next time the bill is presented for a vote.  Alternatively, the issue of cannabis legalization could be put to a ballot question, which would give New Jerseyans an opportunity to make their “voice heard.”

This blog will continue to follow all of the legalization efforts in New Jersey.

Murphy and Legislators Announce Deal for Legalized Cannabis

Image of New Jersey State HouseEarlier this week, Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steven Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano jointly announced an agreement on the major outstanding issues for cannabis legalization: regulatory control and taxation.  A new bill, that has not been publicly released, will be debated over the next two weeks in anticipation of a vote on March 25, 2019.

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NJ Awaits Closed Door Session to Determine Next Steps in Cannabis Legalization

Closed DoorThe final push to advance the cannabis legalization agenda will take place in a closed door session on Thursday, December 13.  At that time, the governor will meet with Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin to continue to negotiate certain nuances of cannabis legalization.  Front and center will be the proposed Cannabis Regulatory Commission, a state agency legislators want to create to control both the proposed recreational cannabis industry and the medicinal industry.

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Out-of-State Partnerships: What is a “Significantly Involved Person”?

New Jersey State Line


Perhaps the most significant change in Sen. Scutari and Sen. Sweeney’s new adult use cannabis legalization bill is the change in residency requirements for cannabis license holders.  In earlier iterations of Sen. Scutari’s legalization bill, cannabis license holders had to be New Jersey residents for two years prior to the date of the license application.  The thought process behind this requirement was to prevent established cannabis businesses from jurisdictions that have already legalized cannabis from entering the New Jersey marketplace and establishing dominance before New Jersey citizens had an opportunity to gain a foothold themselves.

The new bill has changed that.  It creates a defined term known as a “significantly involved person” which essentially means a person or company with a 20% or greater stake in the company applying for a license.  § 9(a)(3) of the new bill states that “[a]n applicant shall have a significantly involved person or persons lawfully residing the State for at least two years as of the date of application to receive a license.” Continue reading

Sen. Sweeney Pushes for Legalization this Summer

New Jersey Democrats are now hopeful that a legal cannabis bill could be approved before Labor Day.  Even though the recent state budget passed without including tax revenue from adult use recreational cannabis, Senate President Steve Sweeney said that lawmakers are “rounding the corner on marijuana” and said that “the speaker and I are committed to getting the marijuana bills done this summer.  That’s our goal.”

Image of New Jersey State HouseSen. Sweeney’s comments suggested that preparing the budget actually made the cannabis discussion more difficult.  “I’m thinking late July, August, hopefully,” Sweeney said.  “Now that this budget’s out of the way, not that a lot of this stuff’s out of the way, all the noise is out of the way, hopefully the administration and we all can focus on marijuana.”

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The State of Cannabis Licensing in New Jersey: What Has Changed?

Image of Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D) and Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (D)

Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D) and Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (D)

This installment of New Jersey Cannabis Counsel dives into the new Scutari/Sweeney legalization bill (the “Bill” or the “New Bill”) and focuses on what was changed, and what was not changed,  from the predecessor bill (the “Old Bill”) when it comes to cannabis business licenses.

Our inaugural blog post addressed the first step for any legal cannabis business in New Jersey under the Old Bill: licensure.  The New Bill still requires licenses, but has slightly changed the overall licensing structure.  Currently, the New Bill proposes four cannabis licenses:

Class 1: Marijuana Grower License
Class 2: Marijuana Processor License
Class 3: Marijuana Wholesaler License
Class 4: Marijuana Retailer License

Followers of this blog and New Jersey’s efforts to legalize cannabis will be familiar with these licenses.  While the Old Bill had growing and processing under one license, all of the above types of cannabis businesses were included in the Old Bill.  More interesting is what was not included in the New Bill.

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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