(Reuters) – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed law on Monday making New Jersey the newest state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana. However, it is expected to take up to a year for pharmacies to start selling cannabis to the public.
The Democratic governor signed a package of three bills after voters overwhelmingly voted in November on an electoral question to legalize adult use of the drug.
The decree came more than three years after Murphy campaigned for the governor to pledge to make recreational use legal in the state. Legalization has been delayed by political opposition within the state assembly, although both houses are controlled by members of Murphy’s own party.
“New Jersey’s broken and unjustifiable marijuana laws no longer exist,” Murphy said on Twitter.
Murphy signed bills that allow the possession of up to six ounces of marijuana for anyone age 21 and older. The distribution and cultivation of cannabis without a license remains illegal. The law, passed by the Assembly and Senate on Monday, also eased penalties for minors for possession of marijuana.
New Jersey, along with more than a dozen other US states, including the other east coast states of Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, legalizes recreational cannabis. Dozens of states allow marijuana to be used in patients with various medical conditions.
The move is expected to boost New Jersey’s pandemic-hit economy by creating a for-profit cannabis industry set to generate millions of tax dollars for the state. However, recreational sales in state-licensed pharmacies can take up to a year.
“We can focus on creating a responsible, sustainable, profitable and diverse adult medical cannabis market and an expanded medical cannabis market in New Jersey,” said Edmund DeVeaux, director of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, in a statement.
“We can stop the pointless arrests for possession and use of a product that should never be criminalized, and voters approved it over three months ago,” he said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Dan Grebler)