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New Cannabis Legislation Remains Committed to Shift Towards Public Health, Offering Greater Promise for Young People’s Futures

March 25, 2021

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill (S3565/A5472) revising a law pertaining to youth possession and use of cannabis and alcohol that was signed by Governor Murphy last month as part of a broader cannabis legalization and decriminalization effort. Under the law passed last month, New Jersey removed criminal penalties for youth under the age of 21, and created graduated consequences that prioritize public health and connect youth and their families with community-based supports and services.

If legislation approved by the Senate and Assembly today is signed into law, youth will receive a written warning for the first incident, with notification provided to parents or guardians of youth under 18. For the second, they receive another written warning with parental notification, as well as information on community supports. For subsequent incidents, the protocol is the same, but young people and their parents are given a referral to local social services and other supports.

The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist Ami Kachalia:

“At its core, cannabis legalization must focus on ending the injustices of prohibition. The youth bill signed into law last month extends those principles to young people by addressing a public health issue by moving towards a public health response. By overhauling the punitive, racially disparate status quo for youth discipline, New Jersey’s new warning scheme for youth cannabis and alcohol possession offers greater promise for young peoples' futures, as opposed to exposing kids to the harms of the criminal legal system. Legislation approved in the Senate and Assembly today revised parental notification rules, and remains steadfast in refusing to criminalize kids. We thank lawmakers and call on law enforcement to embrace this commonsense approach.”

Category: Criminal Justice

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