New Jersey became the 13th state to legalize adult use cannabis when Governor Phil Murphy signed adult-use cannabis reform bills into law, legalizing and regulating cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older and decriminalizing marijuana and hashish possession. The Governor also signed a bill, clarifying marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.
People can possess up to six ounces of marijuana without legal consequence. But the new law on underage penalties for using marijuana also bars police from stopping young people if they smell marijuana and allows them to only give out warnings to young people.
Legal sales likely remain months away, because the state must now work on creating a heavily regulated industry large enough to support public demand, with licenses still to be doled out to dispensaries.
Facing pressure from neighboring New Jersey, a painful fiscal situation, as well as the need to address social, racial, and economic inequalities, New York is closer than ever to legalizing adult use cannabis. New York’s most recent proposal calls for the creation of an “Office of Cannabis Management” that would oversee both recreational use as well as existing medical use. It also would offer licensing opportunities for those in communities disproportionately impacted by law enforcement efforts against marijuana to become entrepreneurs in the new recreational market. Most recently, Governor Cuomo’s amendments detail how the $100 Million in Social Equity funding will be allocated, enable the use of delivery services, and refine which criminal charges will be enforced.
While the reasons to legalize marijuana are more than valid, there remain some serious concerns that must be addressed, especially for those in the trucking industry and small business owners:
Certainly, from the trucking perspective, highway and road safety is paramount. According to a 2018 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, states that have legalized marijuana have seen an increase in crashes due to impaired driving (IIHS). Education is a vital component in reducing impaired driving and in this case many advocates for legalization do a disservice. By constantly claiming that it is not as harmful as alcohol, many drivers get a false idea that driving while high is not dangerous. The Colorado Department of Transportation has put a great deal of time and resources into their educational campaign called Cannabis Conversation, they discovered that a staggering 55 percent of marijuana users felt it was safe to drive while high. Another huge roadway issue especially as compared to alcohol is that, unlike alcohol, there is currently no way to test for impaired driving roadside (there are hair, blood, urine, and saliva tests but currently they are not effective roadside). Worse, marijuana can stay in a person’s system for up to 30 days, but effects do not last that long, so roadside testing logistics aside, it is difficult to test for impairment.
Outside of roadways many New York employers will find themselves in a difficult spot. CDL drivers are still subject to 49 CFR 382 (Drug & Alcohol Testing) will still be prohibited from using marijuana despite legalization in New York but many trucking companies and service facilities have employees that are not subject to this law. These include technicians, warehouse staff, and non-CDL drivers. It is not clear that employers would maintain the ability to use drug test results when making employment decisions for employees performing safety functions. To that end, many employers must keep a drug free workplace as part of their insurance coverage. They must retain the right to keep a drug free workplace after marijuana legalization.
To listen to our roundtable discussion about the best ways to legalize adult use cannabis click here.