Efforts to approve enabling legislation to enact a regulated marijuana market in New Jersey have already hit a hitch, with two committees pulling companion bills from scheduled hearings on Thursday. But a separate proposal to decriminalize cannabis possession was approved by a Senate panel—with a late amendment to lessen penalties for psilocybin-related offenses.
About two-thirds of New Jersey voters approved a referendum to legalize cannabis on Election Day, but it’s still up to lawmakers to pass legislation that will set up the rules for the program and allow for retail sales. Legislators moved quickly to introduce and act on implementation bills, which cleared the Senate Judiciary and Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committees on Monday.
Under the decriminalization bill that passed the Senate committee on Thursday, cannabis penalties would be further reduced and police could not use the odor of marijuana as justification to conduct a search. Under a new amendment that was added to the legislation, possession of up to one ounce of so-called magic mushrooms would be considered a a “disorderly persons offense,” a significant reduction from its prior status as a third-degree crime.
A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a $500 fine and potential jail time, so advocates wouldn’t consider the psychedelic “decriminalized” if the provision is enacted into law. Still, it’s a significant reduction from the current penalty for people convicted of third-degree crimes, which can come with three-to-five-year prison sentences and fines of up to $15,000.
With respect to marijuana, “possession of up to six ounces of marijuana, or up to 170 grams of hashish would be completely decriminalized and have no associated criminal or civil penalties,” a summary of the bill prepared earlier this week states. Distribution of up to one ounce of cannabis or five grams of hash would come with