New Jersey Drops Nearly 88K Marijuana Cases as U.S. Moves Toward Legalization

New Jersey has become the latest state to drop marijuana-related charges as it moves toward full legalization. The New Jersey Judiciary announced Monday night that it had "vacated or dismissed" nearly 88,000 marijuana cases since July 1, with more potentially on the way.

New Jersey became the 13th state to decriminalize marijuana after Governor Phil Murphy signed three laws in February, following a strong response from residents to a ballot question in November. The Judiciary also said that a total of 360,000 cases in the state had been flagged for potential dismissal.

According to the Judiciary's statement, the specific charges eligible for expungement are "distribution of certain quantities of the drugs, possession of certain quantities of the drugs and possession of paraphernalia; use or being under the influence of the drugs; and operating a motor vehicle while in possession of the drugs."

Legal Marijuana
In New Jersey, nearly 88,000 cases related to certain marijuana and hashish convictions or pending cases since July 1 have been vacated or dismissed. Above, cannabis plants in a greenhouse at Vireo Health's medical marijuana cultivation facility in Johnstown, New York, on August 19, 2016. Andrew Angerer/Getty Images

As marijuana legalization laws roll out state by state, advocates have frequently called for them to be accompanied by the dismissal of criminal charges related to weed. In March, New York's Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act cleared the newly decriminalized drug charges from the records of state residents.

Last November, prosecutors from a majority of counties in Arizona moved to expunge all possession of marijuana charges, the Associated Press reported. This came in response to citizens voting for legalization in the 2020 elections.

While marijuana has yet to be decriminalized at the federal level, support is overwhelming among Americans. Recent polling puts the support for legalization at 91 percent nationwide. This number has more than doubled over the past 20 years.

Recently, Democrats in Washington have been making a push for federal decriminalization of marijuana. On April 20, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he intended to put a federal legalization bill before the Senate soon. A similar bill passed in the House of Representatives late last year but was voted down in the Senate.

According to Marijuana Moment, a publication that tracks marijuana policy activity, sources close to the matter said Schumer will present this latest federal bill as soon as Wednesday.

The common argument in favor of legalizing weed—that it will lead to greater tax revenue—appears to be holding true as state marketplaces open up. A May report from the Marijuana Policy Project said that states with legal marijuana brought in $2.7 billion in taxes in 2020 alone, with around $7.9 billion since 2014.

Recreational marijuana has been fully decriminalized in 19 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Guam. Every state except Idaho and Nebraska has some sort of allowance for medical marijuana use.