EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a two-day business and networking conference March 9-10, featuring some of the state’s most prominent industry leaders. Tickets are limited.
Marijuana sales may be months — if not longer — away, but the buzz around legalization has many in New Jersey wondering how they can celebrate.
Those who possess marijuana between now and the opening of dispensaries have a lot of rights under the decriminalization bill, which did away with penalties for marijuana possession for people 21 and older.
“It’s a pretty robust rejection of criminality,” said Charles Gormally, co-chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Brach Eichler.
Here’s what you can do legally until dispensaries open.
Q: Can I buy marijuana now?
A: The only dispensaries currently licensed to sell legal marijuana in New Jersey now are limited to medical patients.
Anyone else who comes into possession of marijuana has gotten illegal product from a drug dealer.
While selling remains a criminal offense, possession of up to six ounces is not. Those 21 and older will not face penalties for buying marijuana, as long as the amount remains under the six ounce threshold.
Q: Is it OK to get marijuana delivered to me?
A: Once dispensaries are open to the public, the state will also license delivery drivers to bring marijuana directly to customers.
Those programs have yet to launch and hinge on licensing from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which must first adopt all the rules and regulations.
But others are getting a jump on the competition.
There is a company offering marijuana delivery currently, NJ Advance Media reported earlier this month. The founder of NJ Green Direct says his business model is legal: customers buy cookies or brownies for $55 or more, and when a delivery driver arrives, they can choose to gift cannabis to the customer.
“I think that’s dubious,” said Joshua Horn, partner and co-chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Fox and Rothschild.
The legality of this model has yet to be tested in New Jersey. In Washington, D.C., gifting services like NJ Green Direct are more common.
But attorneys in New Jersey disagree, and say gifting could still fall under the crime of distribution.
“I don’t believe that type of activity is in the spirit of the law,” said John Fanburg, co-chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Brach Eichler.
“They did not acquire this product legally. I think what the decriminalization is all about, you consumer, are found with in position of less than that quantity, you’re not going to be prosecuted,” he said. “But if you, the delivery service, are now running around giving an ounce to all the consumers…that is not what the statute is set up to permit.”
Horn cautioned those who use a delivery service, noting the marijuana could be confiscated on route to them as part of a criminal investigation. But the person purchasing from such a service would not be in violation of the law.
Q: Can I buy weed in a state where it is legally sold and bring it back to New Jersey?
No. Legally-produced marijuana must stay within the state where it was grown.
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and so does bringing it over state lines. This would only change if the federal government removed marijuana from its list of Schedule 1 drugs.
But if someone does get legal marijuana from another state (like Massachusetts) into New Jersey, they would not face penalties for possessing it here.
Once dispensaries do open in New Jersey, people will not be allowed to purchase it and take it to other states.
Still, New Jersey officials have emphasized the need to beat neighboring New York and Pennsylvania to legalization and benefit from out-of-state customers. Anyone over 21, regardless of their home state, will be allowed to purchase marijuana in the Garden State.
But under the law, legal marijuana purchased in New Jersey should also be consumed here. In states like Washington, Colorado, Oregon and California, this is a more realistic approach: if people come as tourists, they will likely stay and consume marijuana in the state.
But New Jersey already sees 100 million visitors annually. Many people pass through the state for a day or just a few hours, or can easily take public transportation into the Garden State and back. Enforcing this law would fall to federal officials, and it’s unlikely they will widely enforce it.
Q: Can I get marijuana shipped from out of state?
A: No. This also violates federal law.
Q: I rent. Can I smoke weed in my apartment?
A: It depends. Landlords can mandate a smoke and drug-free living environments in leases.
But over time, prohibiting marijuana use in other forms, like edibles or topicals, might make the places less desirable to renters.
“Usually, it’s the conduct that you’re worried about, the outward manifestation of behavior that many affect other tenants that are trying to enjoy their property,” Gormally said. “Their business is to rent apartments. [Banning marijuana] doesn’t make it a rentable apartment. Alcohol has caused a lot more damage than cannabis ever has, but I don’t know of a lease that prohibits alcohol.”
Federal housing can bar any kind of marijuana use on properties as long as prohibition of marijuana continues on that level.
Q: What about driving with marijuana?
A: It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
But having six ounces or less in a car will fall under the same rules as possession as long as the driver is not consuming it.
Police can no longer search a car based on the smell of marijuana alone. Many say this complicates enforcement of DUI laws.
Instead, a person believed to be driving while high must undergo evaluation from a Drug Recognition Expert, or an officer specifically trained to spot signs of impairment. This must be accompanied by a physical test showing marijuana in the driver’s bloodstream.
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Amanda Hoover may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj.