Although New Jersey wanted desperately to become one of the next states to legalize marijuana in 2018, the likelihood of the powers that be coming together on this issue before the holiday break is slim to none. Lawmakers are set to gather at the beginning of the week for the final day of voting in the session, which, according to a report from NJ Advance Media, will not include the bill to legalize marijuana. The state will apparently get into the subject of legal weed once again in 2019.
Ever since Governor Philip Murphy took office with the legalization of marijuana being one of his primary missions, lawmakers have been working to hash out all of this what, ifs and buts surrounding this reform.
But the state is far from agreement on how this should be done.
Lawmakers want to set it up similar to other states that have legalized pot in the past, giving adults 21 and older the freedom to purchase weed in a manner similar to beer. But now, dozens of municipalities throughout the Garden State have taken steps to ensure legal weed doesn’t become a reality within their respective city limits. As far as these places are concerned, it might not be possible for cops to bust people for weed, but cultivation sites and dispensaries will not be welcome.
The many facets of the issue have also prevented the bill from being pushed through this year. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and a number of other lawmakers had hoped to reach some kind of compromise with Governor Murphy’s office last week, but other issues, namely a proposal geared toward raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, prevented the legal weed debate from receiving as much attention.
Nevertheless, Sweeney said the discussion with the Governor was positive and headed in the right direction.
“We really had our first significant conversation today on it,” he said. “I wouldn’t classify anything today as negative. We had a pretty healthy conversation.”
So what is the main holdup? Well, it appears to be about the money. While lawmakers have been mostly in agreement over details surrounding delivery, cannabis lounges, and expunging criminal records, they just cannot seem to agree on taxes, according to an analysis by the New York Times.
As it stands, legislative forces are calling for a 12 percent tax rate on retail sales and the potential for a 2 percent excise tax for local communities. But Governor Murphy wants to tax weed at a straight 25 percent.
The negotiations between both houses and Governor Murphy are expected to get underway once the session reconvenes in 2019.