Marijuana possession arrests still occurring while lawmakers debate legal weed industry

New Jersey residents voted to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana earlier this month. But until state legislators work out the details of the Garden State’s new industry, possession of marijuana remains illegal.
Nearly three weeks after Ballot Question No. 1 was passed, there are still dozens of people who have been arrested for possessing cannabis – victims of laws that are still on the books while lawmakers debate the new rules.
“Every single day. Just about every single day. Usually it’s several people a day. Obviously, the calls fluctuate,” says Tinton Falls defense attorney Jef Henninger.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says that police around New Jersey have the discretion to enforce the cannabis prohibition laws.
“People are still getting arrested. People are still getting charged the day after the election, same as before the election,” says Point Pleasant Beach defense attorney Carmine Villani.
But if one were to look at what is happening around the state, one may see that the population of New Jersey as a whole is ready to have a legal marijuana industry.
Marijuana advocate Ed “Weedman” Forchion openly sells cannabis down the street from the New Jersey State House. The mayor of Shamong Township is recruiting farmers to grow marijuana and make the town the “Weed Capital of New Jersey.”
But it seems as if law enforcement officers are enforcing the laws that remain on the books for the time being. And prosecutors are moving forward with the cases.
“It’s different from town to town,” Henninger says. “There’s 500 municipal courts in New Jersey, so there’s 500 different things that they’re doing."
New Jersey has a long history of arresting more people than almost any other state for marijuana possession. And a disproportionate percentage of those people are minorities. This is one of the reasons why lawmakers who supported legalization, including Gov. Phil Murphy, pushed for social reform along with legalization.
Lawmakers have been advancing some of the bills to set up the legal marijuana industry. But it was unclear when a vote on the legislation would occur.