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Gov. Murphy Signs Bills Legalizing Recreational Marijuana For Adults, Decriminalizing Possession Of Small Amounts In New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- 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.

But some say the penalties for minors are too weak, CBS2's Meg Baker reported.

"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, are no more," Murphy said.

The governor put into effect a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November to legalize adult use of 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 the same as alcohol use, while weakening existing penalties for underage drinking.

"It's illegal, but it won't be in the criminal justice system," said State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), who sponsored the bills.

The first offense for minors caught with alcohol or marijuana results in a written warning from police

On the second offense, parents or guardians would be notified and provided information about community services or groups offering substance abuse education.

On the third offense, the minor would be referred to those community service groups.

"This bill is insane," said State Sen. Michael Testa (R). "The government is taking parents out of the lives of their children."

Testa says a written warning for a kid caught with marijuana or alcohol is not enough.

"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," Testa said.

Marijuana industry expert Mike McQueeny says this form of underage education ties into criminal justice reform.

"It think, importantly for inner cities and communities of color, this isn't carte blanche for police to basically use this to otherwise harass or intimidate individuals," McQueeny said.

"What's the timeline for people being able to go in and purchase marijuana legally," Baker asked.

"They're looking at anywhere between six months to a year," said McQueeny.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission must now set up the rules, regulations and licensing structure to buy and sell marijuana.

CBS2's Meg Baker contributed to this report.

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