Today, New Jersey’s legislature passed Senate Bill No. 3454, also known as the “clean-up bill.” The clean-up bill sets the penalties for underage possession of cannabis and changes the penalties for underage possession of alcohol to match. There will be no fines or criminal penalties for the possession of cannabis by minors. People under the age of 21 and over the age of 18 would be subject to up to a $50 civil fine for possession of cannabis under the legal limit for those 21 and over (six ounces), and up to a $100 civil fine should they possess over that amount. There are no criminal penalties for possession by those under the age of 21 and over the age of 18. The clean-up bill also establishes that the scent of cannabis is not probable cause for detainment or search by the police, police must have body-cameras turned on when interacting with suspected violators of New Jersey’s underaged cannabis laws, and forbids detainment for violations of the underaged cannabis laws.
In response to a 2020 ballot initiative amending the New Jersey constitution to permit the possession, sale, and use of cannabis by adults 21 and over, the state legislature passed a decriminalization bill, permitting the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis, and a legalization bill, which established the taxation rate and legal marketplace for the state. However, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy worried about the lack of legislation regarding underage cannabis use and would not sign either the decriminalization or legalization bills until the legislature passed the clean-up bill. All three bills were signed by Gov. Murphy today, February 22, 2021.