Weed May Be Legal, But You Still Can’t Smoke on NJ Beaches
New Jersey's ban on beach smoking has been in effect for four summers. But shore towns are having a harder time this year keeping everyone in line with the law, especially now that recreational marijuana is legal in the Garden State.
Officials in Seaside Heights hear few complaints from visitors about cigarette use on the beaches, but there's been no shortage in 2022 of complaints related to marijuana usage — particularly the smell, according to Mayor Tony Vaz.
"It's very difficult when you get thousands and thousands of people ... to watch just one area of the law," Vaz told New Jersey 101.5. "We've enforced it the best we can."
Borough officers have handed out summonses, mostly to smokers who refuse to cooperate, Vaz said. Dozens of smoking summonses were distributed over one recent weekend.
In addition, Vaz said, there's "signage everywhere," advising visitors of the no-smoking policy. And there are cigarette receptacles on the street side of the boardwalk, giving smokers a reminder to put it out before coming up.
A state law signed in 2018 that forbids smoking of tobacco or cannabis products at public beaches and parks took effect in January 2019. Violators can pay a fine of up to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Legal sales of marijuana in New Jersey launched on Apr. 21, 2022. Adults aged 21 and older may possess up to 6 ounces legally.
According to Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra, the borough has seen a big decrease in smoking of all kinds, due to strong enforcement of no-smoking ordinances. Still, officers have issued nearly 200 smoking ordinances this summer alone — roughly 5% were related to marijuana, and 75% were related to vaping of either tobacco or cannabis products.
"Where we are seeing some issues is with juveniles, because the way the marijuana law is written, it obviously ties the hands of police offices a little bit, emboldens younger people to be smoking marijuana ... without much fear of repercussion," Kanitra said.
Under New Jersey's law, individuals under 21 who are caught with a lawful amount of pot are issued warnings on a first offense — for offenders younger than 18, that warning goes to a parent or guardian. A second offense comes with a referral to community services.
Just this year, Point Pleasant Beach expanded its no-smoking zones to includes streets and sidewalks in the area of the beach.