BY AIDA SALL
Signed into law by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, recreational cannabis use was legalized in the state of New Jersey on January 1, 2021 with the passage of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA), meaning residents over the age of 21 can now legally possess and consume marijuana. This came to fruition amidst overwhelming public support for this legislation among the American electorate, especially young people.
Legalization of recreational cannabis use comes after the state legislature unsuccessfully tried to legalize cannabis during its 2018-19 session. Shortly thereafter, on the 2020 general election ballot, the state legislature placed the issue before the voters as a referendum, which is a direct vote by the electorate on a proposed law, rather than the issue being voted on by elected officials. Known as New Jersey Public Question 1, the referendum passed overwhelmingly, garnering a 67% approval rating among voters.
“I think it’s great that it is legalized now,” said Julia Sall, a rising sophomore at Northeastern University who resides in New Jersey. “Many people in communities of color have been criminalized as a result of selling and consuming marijuana, leading to a disproportionate amount of incarceration among Black and Brown people, so having it decriminalized is certainly a significant step in closing that gap.”
Although it was initially set to go into effect on January 1, 2021, the implementation of this amendment to the state constitution was deferred until February 22 as a result of negotiation difficulties between Governor Murphy and the legislature regarding penalties for underage consumers of marijuana.
Additionally, the amendment also allows the creation of a regulated recreational marketplace to “grow, distribute, and sell the drug,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“I think this is a massive step in the right direction,” said Natalie Jonas, a rising sophomore at New York University who resides in New Jersey. “Given the racial reckoning of 2020 and still now, I would say many people are in agreement that this is a step in ensuring equality and equity across communities.”
On the other hand, Rheanne Marquez, a rising college freshman who also resides in New Jersey, slightly differs in her opinion.
“Personally, I do not engage in smoking and I do not encourage people to either, but at the same time, I think it should be legalized because many people of color are arrested and placed in prison due to it — and I don’t think that is something worth going to jail over,” Marquez said.
Ultimately, the dominating political beliefs of young people across the state are certainly in favor of this legislation. The legalization of cannabis in New Jersey came shortly after the measure was implemented in states such as Arizona, Illinois, Vermont, and Montana.