Nearly 88,000 low-level marijuana offenses have been dismissed over the past two weeks, the state Supreme Court said, as New Jersey transitions to legalizing and decriminalizing the drug.
The dismissed cases announced late Monday afternoon are the first in a wave of about 360,000 that are eligible to be automatically vacated, dismissed and expunged under the decriminalization law Gov. Phil Murphy signed earlier this year.
Although the first batch of cases have been dismissed, they still have to go through the expungement process, which is automatic under the law.
Earlier this month, Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner directed that pending cases and warrants for fourth-degree and disorderly persons offenses related to marijuana or hashish — including possession and distribution of small amounts, being under the influence and operating a motor vehicle while in possession of the drugs — be dismissed.
The court's July 1 order also said that related violations of probation or pretrial monitoring will be vacated and driver’s license suspensions or revocations for failure to appear will be rescinded.
Cases of eligible defendants who are pending sentencing or have completed sentencing will also be vacated and dismissed, the court said.
New Jersey became the 13th state to legalize marijuana when Murphy signed the law in February, after voters approved it in 2020.
The administration is working on setting up the regulatory framework for the new industry, including the sale of the drug. Although small amounts are now decriminalized, purchasing marijuana is not yet a possibility on the open market.
As the Cannabis Regulatory Commission works through that and other issues, some towns throughout the state have passed bans on selling marijuana.
Dustin Racioppi is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to his work covering New Jersey’s governor and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.