On Monday, the New Jersey Legislature advanced a proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved S2703, sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari, (7-2-4), and the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A4497, sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, (6-1-2).
The next step is to send the legislation to the full chambers for a vote. The state’s Governor Phil Murphy has been a big supporter of legalizing and regulating adult use cannabis. Readers can follow the latest in legislative moves on the Green Market ReportsLegislation section.
A recent study, conducted by New Jersey Policy Perspective and the ACLU of New Jersey concluded that a fully implemented regulated marijuana marketplace for adults in New Jersey could generate at least over $300 million in additional tax revenue for the state. New Jerseyans currently spend up to an estimated $869 million on marijuana in the illegal marketplace every year.
“New Jersey is one step closer to replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation. Arresting adult cannabis consumers is a massive waste of law enforcement officials’ time and resources, and it does nothing to improve public health or safety,” said Kate M. Bell, general counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Prohibition forces marijuana sales into the underground market, where it is impossible to control them. Under the proposed regulated system, businesses will be governed by strict rules, and authorities will be empowered to make sure those rules are being followed.”
MPP stated that if the bill passes this year, New Jersey will be the first state to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis via the legislature. Such laws have been adopted by voters via ballot initiatives in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in Washington, D.C. have adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but they do not authorize commercial production or sales for adult use.
MPP noted that the amended version of the legislation included the following:
- allows adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (seven grams), although, unlike most other states to have adopted legalization, the cultivation of any amount of cannabis by adults in their own homes would remain a crime;
- sets a tax rate of 12 percent of the retail price (including the sales tax), plus an optional local tax of up to 2 percent;
- provides for five types of regulated marijuana businesses: growers, product manufacturers, wholesalers, testing facilities, and retailers, who can deliver marijuana and some of which may include consumption areas;
- allows local jurisdictions extensive control over the number and types of businesses in their borders, including the ability to impose local licensing requirements; and
- establishes a five-member appointed Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which would serve as the regulatory agency overseeing both the new adult-use and the existing medical cannabis programs.