No, you can’t buy marijuana in New Jersey and bring it back to Pennsylvania. Here’s why.
Marijuana is legal in New Jersey, and decriminalized in Philadelphia. But bringing it from New Jersey to Philly is very illegal, and you could get into a ton of trouble. Here's why.
So you’ve heard the news? Recreational marijuana is now legal to buy in New Jersey as an adult.
On the first day of sales, more than 12,000 customers bought nearly $1.9 million of recreational cannabis. But what if you don’t live in New Jersey and want to bring it home with you — is that legal?
We talked to local law enforcement to give you a clear answer. The short answer is no.
Is it legal to buy marijuana in New Jersey if I live out of state?
Yes. Any adult ages 21 and over can purchase marijuana from approved dispensaries in New Jersey. You’re also allowed to possess up to six ounces of marijuana in New Jersey. Emphasis on “in New Jersey.” These new laws only apply to adults inside the state of New Jersey. If you leave the state with legal New Jersey weed, you’re subject to other state and federal laws.
Is it legal to buy marijuana in New Jersey and take it out of state?
No, it’s illegal. Very illegal.
Even if you live in New Jersey, you can’t leave the state with your stash. In New Jersey, the law allows for approved businesses to grow and sell cannabis to adult consumers within the state. That’s as far as you can go with your legal Jersey weed — otherwise it becomes illegal.
It’s even illegal to bring that legal weed into another legal state, like New York, according to federal law. Remember, cannabis is still not federally legal — some states have decided not to enforce federal law to allow for their state’s legalization, like New Jersey, California, and many other states. But it’s still federally illegal and crossing state borders with illegal substances can put you at risk of committing a federal crime.
Legal experts, like Marijuana Policy Project’s senior attorney DeVaughn Ward, warn against leaving New Jersey with that legal weed you just bought.
“While I don’t think the FBI or DEA will be waiting on the border or the Jersey Turnpike for you, it is still a crime. I would caution readers to not cross state lines with cannabis, whether that’s via car, train, or automobile. I would hate for somebody to be prosecuted,” said Ward. “The reality is, the federal prohibition prevents folks from traveling between states with cannabis, even if it may have been purchased in one legal state and has been brought to another legal state.”
But isn’t marijuana decriminalized in Philadelphia?
Possession of marijuana is decriminalized in Philadelphia. Possessing, smoking, or buying a “small amount” of marijuana is considered a civil violation in Philly. This means if you have under 30 grams of cannabis, you only receive a fine ($25 for possession, $100 for smoking in public) and a written notice. You won’t be arrested in Philadelphia for possession of marijuana.
However, traveling across state lines with marijuana can be considered “drug trafficking” in the eyes of federal government. According to federal law, trafficking any controlled substance across state lines is a federal crime. Marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance, which makes it very illegal.
What local and state law enforcement say
Jasmine Reilly, public affairs officer, Philadelphia police: “Although cannabis can now be bought legally in New Jersey, that change in New Jersey State law has no bearing in Philadelphia. Crossing state lines with cannabis is still illegal.”
Lt. Adam Reed, director of communications, Pennsylvania State Police: “Marijuana is a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania’s law currently stands, a person can be charged by any law enforcement agency in Pennsylvania for illegal possession of marijuana. A person can also be charged with DUI for being under the influence of any controlled substance or alcohol. Troopers who are certified as drug recognition experts (DRE) receive special training to recognize the physiological signs of a wide range of controlled substances, including marijuana. The same standardized field sobriety test used for alcohol cases are effective for people under the influence of controlled substances.”
Jane Roh, communications director, Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office: “The change in law in New Jersey has no immediate impact on our policies, but whether it impacts us on the front end via charging [people for possession] is largely up to police and other law enforcement. The DA’s Office under DA Larry Krasner does not generally prosecute possession of illegal substances for personal use. We do, however, prosecute trafficking of illegal substances, which achieves our aims of prosecuting in service to justice and safety since much of the drug supply now is poisonous and firearms trafficking and gun violence are closely linked to drug trafficking.”
If you’re caught traveling across state lines with marijuana you can be facing a felony drug-trafficking charge. A first time drug-trafficking offense can carry a five-year prison sentence and a fine of $250,000. If you’re caught again, the jail time and fine are doubled.
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What should I do then?
You need to store your stash in New Jersey or have a place to stay in the state where you can safely consume cannabis products. You can’t travel back to your state with New Jersey marijuana and you can’t drive under the influence.
Your best bet is to plan ahead of time. Have a place you can store your stash or stay and consume marijuana at. According to the National Institutes of Health, the effects of cannabis usually last from one to three hours, but you can still test positive on a drug test for weeks after initial consumption.