On Election Day, November 6th 2020, residents of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to legalize adult-use of THC-based cannabis & to decriminalize possession of it. Several months later, on February 22nd, Governor Phil Murphy signed a legislation into law which sets up the framework of a legal cannabis industry.
Most Immediate: Decriminalization
In 2017, NJ police officers made 33,000 arrests for possession or sale of THC-based cannabis. Such a high annual rate of arrests has had a long-lasting detrimental effect on the lives of countless families. Such an arrest can disqualify a person from many job opportunities and in too many cases resulted in losing custody of the person’s children. Black people were arrested for “marijuana” at a rate 3.45 times higher than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage.
The new decriminalization law allows people to possess up to six ounces of THC-based cannabis without legal consequence. The new law also bars police from stopping young people if they smell cannabis, and allows them to only give out warnings to underage people who are in possession of the plant. However, penalties for selling to underage people have been increased in an effort to reduce the chances of minors obtaining this plant-based drug.
A Big Win for NJ Entrepreneurs! Micro Licenses!
New Jersey has pioneered a new type of licenses which we expect other states to mimic: the Micro License. Besides allowing for 37 large scale grower/extractor licenses (each of which can cost up to $10 million to set up and implement) the new law allows for small businesses and mom & pop operations to have a unique opportunity to participate and flourish in NJ’s new cannabis industry. To start, there is no cap on how many micro-licenses will be given.
To qualify for a micro-license the business must be 100% owned by a NJ resident of at least 2 years. The law allows grower, processor, wholesaler and retailer micro-licenses, which must have under 10 employees and oblige to reasonable limits; for example a grower micro-licence allows up to 2,500sq feet with enough height to double it two floors.
At least 15% of licenses must be allocated to businesses owned by minorities & at least 15% must be owned by women and disabled veterans.
Within 180 days, a new Cannabis Regulatory Commission that will be in charge of finalizing and implementing the new law.
This program has many limitations and plenty of things to be upset about, yet it does create unique opportunities for local businesses to be integral parts of a grassroots industry that will create a lot of local jobs and prosperity. In NJ people will soon get the cannabis options equivalent to Budweiser™ vs Coney Island Brewery, which has a chance to become as successful as the former micro-brewer Sam Adams.™