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With more than 750,000 acres in farmland, hemp has long been viewed as a viable crop for the Garden State as it would allow farmers to diversify their products and earn additional profits.

In the wake of the 2014 Farm Bill, New Jersey passed its Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, whereby certain individuals partnered with educational institutions to cultivate, process, research, test, and market safe and effective industrial hemp. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and it is now regulated as an agricultural commodity by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDOA).

Upon the passage of this bill, lawmakers sought to repeal the New Jersey Industrial Pilot Program and replace it with the New Jersey Hemp Farming Act, which would establish a program for cultivation, processing, transport, and sale of hemp to be administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDOA).

A5322, known as the “New Jersey Hemp Farming Act” finally became law on Friday August 9, 2019. The New Jersey Hemp Farming Act (“NJHFA”) establishes a program for the cultivation, handling, processing, transport, and sale of hemp and hemp products in the State in accordance with federal law. The bill also repeals New Jersey’s hemp pilot program, and replaces it with a permanent program, administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture that complies with federal law.

Just like the 2018 Farm Bill, NJHFA defines “hemp” the plant Cannabis sativa L., any part of the plant, and all derivatives thereof with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent, consistent with federal law. In other words, if the hemp has more than .3 percent THC, it will no longer be legal on a state or federal level.

Because hemp is a viable agricultural crop and the state wants to promote the cultivation and processing of hemp, the New Jersey now allows famers and businesses to cultivate (plant, grow, or harvest), handle (possessing or storing – exclusive of finished hemp products), process (convert hemp into a marketable form) and sell hemp products for commercial purposes. Farmers and businesses looking to cultivate, handle, process and sell hemp products for commercial purposes must submit an application to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (“NJDOA”). The application must contain GPS coordinates of the hemp farm, written consent from the cultivator allowing law enforcement and other officials to enter the property at will, a criminal background check of the applicant, and a non-refundable application fee. Other information may be required by the NJDOA as they implement this application process.

It has been nearly two years since the viral #MeToo tweet that sparked a national debate about sexual harassment in the workplace. While #MeToo has not changed the legal standard by which sexual harassment is defined in New Jersey, it has had a dramatic impact on the way sexual harassment is perceived and tolerated in our culture. Perhaps the movement’s biggest impact can be seen in the passage of both federal and state legislation aimed at providing greater protections to victims of workplace sexual harassment. This article takes a closer look at these legislative initiatives as well as potential changes on the horizon.

Federal Legislation

2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act

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Kathleen M. Connelly, a member of Lindabury’s Employment Law practice group,  was recently interviewed by ROI-NJ regarding the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on July 2nd.  NJ joins a growing list of states enforcing workplace protections for medical marijuana users.  Kathleen said the difficulty from the employer standpoint is the tension between understanding that people see benefits from cannabis in medical treatment but also needing to ensure these individuals aren’t under the influence while performing job duties.

You can read the full article here.

In February of 2019 Governor Murphy signed into law sweeping legislation that significantly expands employee rights to family leave entitlements, provides greater family leave insurance benefits to employees during a leave, expands the definition of “family members,” and finally, provides greater job security to individuals taking family leave. It is critical for employers to understand the multiple changes resulting from this this legislation to ensure that employee’s rights are not being violated.

Amendments to the New Jersey Family Leave Act: While most employers are aware that those with 50 or more employees are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that accords employees 12 weeks of protected unpaid leave for personal medical leave, or to care for a newborn/newly adopted child or family member with a serious medical condition, many are unaware that New Jersey also has a similar Family Leave Act (NJFLA) that likewise applied to employers of 50 or more and accords 12 weeks of protected unpaid leave to qualifying employees. However, unlike the FMLA, NJFLA leave is only available for bonding with a newborn or newly adopted child, or to care for a family member with serious medical condition; the employee has no personal medical leave rights available under the NJFLA.

Effective June 30, 2019, the employee headcount for coverage under the NJFLA dropped from 50 to 30 employees, taking it out of alignment with the FMLA and making many more small employers subject to the requirements of the NJFLA to provide guaranteed protected bonding and family medical leave to qualifying employees. The amendments further expanded the NJFLA to include family leave in connection with the placement of a child into foster care with the employee or the birth of a child conceived using a gestational carrier agreement; in addition, leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child which rights were available to employees prior to the amendments.

Since its’ passage in 1991, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act or “PDVA” has afforded protection to New Jersey residents who have been the victim of domestic violence. The PDVA has been amended and interpreted on countless occasions over the years and is one of the most strict and protective laws of its kind in the country.

If an individual alleges that they have been the victim of domestic violence and can demonstrate this to a Judge, an emergent Order of protection will be entered. This temporary restraining order or “TRO” will be issued and served upon the other party who will then be restrained from having any contact with the complaining party. At the same time the matter will be scheduled for a hearing, to occur in approximately ten days, where testimony will be taken under oath to determine whether an act of domestic violence occurred. At the conclusion of the hearing the Court will determine whether an act of domestic violence occurred and, if so, the terms of the temporary restraining order will become final and/or modified as final. If the Court finds that an act or acts of domestic violence occurred, the Court has the authority to impose a variety of restrictions and prohibitions in what will become a Final Restraining Order or “FRO.”

Over the years I have had both plaintiffs and defendants inquire as to how “final“ their Final Restraining Order or FRO actually is. The answer varies from state to state.

Andrew Gibbs, a member of Lindabury’s Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice group, is quoted in a recent issue of NJ-ROI concerning the confusion surrounding the argument to purchase insurance protection plans focusing on cybersecurity issues.  Andy says, “Cybercriminals are starting to target smaller and mid-sized businesses.  Those companies need to start making this more of an important consideration. It’s true that a lot of companies might still be saying, ‘I’m not sure I need this — it’s too expensive but the reality is, this insurance is not that expensive compared to the actual cost of a loss from a cyberattack.”

You can read the full NJ-ROI article here.

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One of the hallmarks of estate planning is the use of terms of art in legal documents. Terms of art are often encountered in a will or revocable trust. This article will discuss the Latin phrase “per stirpes” and related concepts in the context of estate distributions to beneficiaries.

A. Per Stirpes. The term “per stirpes” literally means “by roots or stocks.” In the context of a disposition in a will or trust, the term is frequently used, for example, as part of a distribution to “surviving descendants, per stirpes.” The term is defined in New Jersey law as follows:

If a governing instrument requires property to be distributed “per stirpes,” the property is divided into as many equal shares as there are: (1) surviving children of the designated ancestor; and (2) deceased children who left surviving descendants. Each surviving child is allocated one share. The share of each deceased child with surviving descendants is allocated in the same manner, with subdivision repeating at each succeeding generation until the property is fully allocated among surviving descendants.

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A recent decision from the Morris County Chancery Division, Probate Part, serves as an important reminder to not only think about the final disposition of your remains, but to communicate those thoughts to the significant people in your life. In an unpublished opinion, In the Matter of the Estate of John E. Travers, Jr. (New Jersey Superior Court, Morris County, Docket No. P-2253-2017, 2/19/2019) (hereinafter “Travers”), the Court addressed the question of who may control the disposition of a decedent’s remains when the decedent has not expressed his intentions in this regard. The Travers case contained no significant legal principles, nor did it break new ground in the estate planning field. It did, however, highlight the importance of specifying the person who should be in charge of your final arrangements and the disposition of your remains.

In this case, Mr. Travers was 22, single and had no children. He had no will and had made no direction regarding his funeral or the disposition of his remains. He was survived by his mother and father, his closest blood relations. His parents were divorced. His father felt strongly that Mr. Travers should be buried, and his mother thought he should be cremated. This disagreement took them to the Superior Court of New Jersey, where the Chancery Judge was called upon to decide the question.

The Court began its inquiry with an examination of the New Jersey law that allows for the appointment of a funeral and disposition representative. New Jersey Statute 45:27-22 provides that a decedent may specify who is to be entrusted with funeral arrangements and the disposition of bodily remains. See N.J.S. 45:27-22.a. This direction must be in a will. Id. If the decedent has not left a will that includes such an appointment, the statute sets forth the order of priority of the persons entitled to control the funeral and the disposition of remains as follows: (1) the surviving spouse or civil union or domestic partner; (2) a majority of the surviving adult children; (3) the surviving parent or parents; (4) a majority of the brothers and sisters; (5) other next of kin according to the degree of relationship with the decedent; and (6) if no next of kin, any other person acting on a decedent’s behalf. Id.

Industrial hemp has a long and rich history throughout the world. This is largely because hemp is dynamic and can evolve into products such as clothing, animal feed, building materials, bio plastics, biofuels, paper, fiber and food. Hemp seeds, or grains, are smooth and about one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch long. Hemp seeds can also be used to make a variety of products for industrial and cosmetic use. Of particular interest in New Jersey are the agricultural benefits associated with the hemp plant. Hemp has been known to kill weeds, thereby negating the need for herbicides on crops. Hemp also can absorb metals in the soil thereby acting as a natural filter, mitigating sediment runoff, through which eroded soils carry nutrient pollution into water resources.

Given its multipurpose capabilities, it is no surprise that Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (“2018 Farm Bill” or “Farm Bill”). Section 297A of the Farm Bill defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The Farm Bill effectively decriminalizes hemp by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. The Farm Bill also expands the commercial cultivation of hemp beyond the limited state-approved pilot programs, legalizes hemp production in US territories and on Indian tribal land and authorizes the coverage of hemp as a commodity under crop insurance.

Because hemp is no longer viewed as a controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Agency has been removed from oversight and replaced with United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). As such, the USDA exercises primary regulatory authority over hemp production. According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (“NJDOA”), the USDA intends to issue regulations in the fall of 2019 for states that wish to submit hemp production plans. These regulations will address requirements for testing the THC levels of hemp and address disposal of hemp plants and products produced that contain more than .3% THC.

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