Gov. Murphy Signs Bills Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Monday bills legalizing adults' use of recreational marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts after months of negotiations with legislators. CBS2's Meg Baker has the details.

Video Transcript

- In New Jersey, recreational use of marijuana for adults is officially legal this morning, along with possession of a small amount. But some say the penalties are too weak for minors. CBS News Meg Baker reports Governor Murphy says the change was long overdue.

GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: New Jersey's broken and indefensible marijuana laws, which permanently stained the records of many residents and short circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise, are no more.

MEG BAKER: Governor Murphy put into effect a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November to legalize adult use marijuana. Criminal records will also be wiped clean. The final step was a compromise clean-up bill to determine consequences for minors. It treats marijuana and alcohol use the same, weakening existing penalties for underage drinking. State Senator Nicholas Scutari sponsored the bill.

SENATOR NICHOLAS SCUTARI: It's illegal, but it won't be in the criminal justice system.

MEG BAKER: The first offense for minors caught with alcohol or marijuana-- a written warning from police. Second offense-- the person's parents or guardians would be notified and provided information about community services or groups offering education on substance use. Third offense-- the person would be referred to those community service groups.

SENATOR MICHAEL TESTA: This bill is insane-- the government taking parents out of the lives of their children.

MEG BAKER: Republican State Senator Michael Testa says a written warning for a kid caught with marijuana or alcohol is not enough.

SENATOR MICHAEL TESTA: Couple that with the fact that law enforcement is not allowed to notify the parents that their child-- their son or daughter-- has been engaging in what is technically illegal activity. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

MEG BAKER: Marijuana industry expert, Mike McQueeney says this form of underage education ties into criminal justice reform.

MIKE MCQUEENEY: I think importantly for inner cities and communities of color.

MEG BAKER: What's a timeline for people being able to go in and purchase marijuana legally?

MIKE MCQUEENEY: They're looking at anywhere between six months to a year.

MEG BAKER: The Cannabis Regulatory Commission has to set up the rules, regulations, and licensing structure. In New Jersey, Meg Baker, CBS Two News.