Bergen County residents are prohibited from cultivating cannabis for recreational and medical purposes at home, even though medical and adult-use cannabis have been legalized in New Jersey. Growing up to 10 marijuana plants at home is a felony under New Jersey law and is punishable by up to five years in jail and up to a $25,000 fine. Cultivating more than 10 but less than 50 cannabis plants attracts a stiffer penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and a $150,000 fine.
However, commercial marijuana establishments (both recreational and medical) that have obtained the relevant licenses can cultivate cannabis plants for commercial purposes, provided such operations have not been prohibited in the Bergen County municipalities where they are located. Note that Section 31b of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) authorizes New Jersey municipalities to adopt regulations prohibiting the operations of any class of cannabis establishment in their jurisdictions. For instance, through Ordinance #2021-52, the Borough of Hohokus in Bergen County prohibits the establishment of cannabis cultivation establishments, while the Borough of Oakland permits cannabis cultivation for commercial uses.
Cannabis manufacturing is legal in Bergen County; however, municipalities determine their own ordinances and regulations concerning cannabis operations pursuant to the CREAMMA. Hence, several Bergen County towns and boroughs have prohibited the establishment of cannabis manufacturing establishments within their jurisdiction.
Recreational cannabis retail is legal in Bergen County in accordance with the CREAMMA. However, many Bergen County municipalities have prohibited the establishment of adult-use cannabis dispensaries within their jurisdictions. For instance, under Ordinance No. 2021-01, recreational cannabis dispensaries are prohibited in the Borough of Paramus. While several Bergen County towns and boroughs prohibit the retail sale of adult-use cannabis, medical cannabis retail is allowed in most jurisdictions. Still, some municipalities, such as the Borough of Bergenfield, prohibit the establishment of medical marijuana retail stores.
In jurisdictions where recreational cannabis retail stores are permitted, no cannabis retail premises may be located on any property in which a grocery store, indoor food market, delicatessen, or any store selling alcoholic beverages is located. In New Jersey, recreational cannabis stores are not allowed to sell cannabis products to persons under the age of 21.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act legalizes the delivery of recreational cannabis in New Jersey, including Bergen County. Bergen County has not enacted any specific ordinance to prohibit the delivery of adult-use cannabis within its borders; however, the delivery of recreational cannabis is not allowed in many locations in the county in accordance with existing ordinances in such jurisdictions. The Borough of Hohokus prohibits cannabis delivery services, while in the Borough of New Milford, businesses delivering medicinal and recreational cannabis are not permitted in all zoning districts.
The medical marijuana card issued in Bergen County identifies the cardholder as a patient registered under the New Jersey Medicinal Cannabis Program (NJMCP) who is permitted to obtain up to 3 oz. worth of medicinal cannabis for every 30-day period from licensed Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC).
To get a medical marijuana card in Bergen County, an individual must be 18 or older, possess proof of residency in Bergen County or another New Jersey location, and obtain a medical cannabis registry ID and reference number from a physician certified by the state to recommend medical marijuana. You may use a passport-style photo, valid New Jersey state identification, or a current utility bill issued within the past 90 days as proof of residency.
In order to obtain a valid registry ID and reference number from a physician in Bergen County, state law requires that you have a bona fide relationship with the physician who must be registered with the New Jersey medicinal cannabis program. You can find a medical cannabis program participating practitioner through the state-approved list of participating practitioners or find a provider tool on the medical cannabis program website. During your appointment with the certified physician, the healthcare practitioner will run a series of tests and review your medical history to verify that you suffer from one or more of the approved debilitating medical conditions. These conditions include:
After verifying that you qualify for medical marijuana use, the physician will issue you a state medical marijuana patient registry ID and reference number. Subsequently, you may complete the application online via the NJMCP registration portal. Within 30 days, the New Jersey Department of Health will contact you with approval information via email. If your MMJ card application is approved, you will also be notified to pay a $100 registration fee. If you are involved in any assistance programs, such as SSD, SSI, Medicaid, SNAP, or are a military veteran, you may qualify for a reduced fee of $20. Upon making the payment for the application fee, the MMJ card will arrive in the mail within 10 business days. The MMJ card is valid for two years, but you must obtain certification from an approved physician every year.
Note that you can designate up to two caregivers during the application process. Designated caregivers must be aged 18 or older and reside in New Jersey. Caregivers will also be required to undergo background checks by submitting their fingerprints. During registration, caregivers will be required to provide recent photos, government-issued IDs, and registration fees.
With recreational cannabis sales only beginning in New Jersey in April 2022, it will take a few months before the state starts to experience a significant contribution from the recreational cannabis sector to its economy. According to an independent report, annual sales of recreational cannabis in New Jersey are expected to top $2 billion within 3 - 4 years. The report also indicated that medical marijuana sales are expected to peak by 2023 before declining as more users opt for recreational marijuana.
With recreational cannabis sales just beginning, the impact of cannabis legalization on crime rates in Bergen County and New Jersey can only be measured with respect to medical cannabis. According to an independent report, cannabis-related arrests among adults in New Jersey changed by a relatively small amount from 2010 to 2015. In that period, cannabis-related arrests among New Jersey adults increased from 21,884 in 2010 to 24,118 in 2015. In 2016, the figures increased to 32,066 and then 34,536 in 2017. By 2021, arrest figures for cannabis-related crimes decreased to about 31,000. Overall, between 2010 and 2019, the total number of arrests for cannabis-related offenses increased by about 40%.
According to the FBI UCR program, DUI rates in New Jersey between 2010 and 2019 did not decline significantly. However, in 2020 DUI figures decreased by more than 30% from the previous year. In 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, New Jersey recorded 23,271, 21,738, 20,609, and 21,386 DUI arrests respectively. In 2020, the DUI arrest numbers in the state fell to 14,403.