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We Finally Know What’s in New Jersey’s Cannabis Legalization Bill

March 12, 2019
(Derek Boen/iStock)
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders said Tuesday they’ve agreed on legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis.

The Democratic trio, including Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney, announced the agreement in a statement Tuesday after more than a year of negotiations, mostly behind closed doors. Leafly contributor Jay Lassiter has chronicled the saga as it has unfolded, from early delays in the Legislature to infighting among Democrats and rumblings that leaders were nearing a compromise.

The agreement marks the first time leaders have laid out the details of the plan.

It’s unclear whether there are enough votes in the Democrat-controlled Legislature to pass the bill, but the agreement marks the first time leaders have laid out the details of the plan. Tuesday’s announcement comes just after word emerged that leaders were homing in on a deal.

Murphy, who campaigned in 2017 on legalizing recreational cannabis, cast the legislation as a social justice victory.

“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” Murphy said.

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If the deal becomes law, New Jersey would join 10 other states and the District of Columbia with legal adult-use cannabis. It could also attract a flock of visitors from neighboring New York, where lawmakers are considering adult-use legalization but appear increasingly likely to miss a key legislative deadline and be forced to return to the issue next year.

The New Jersey leaders say the deal would set up an expedited record expungement process for people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes. They say the proposal also would bar certain marijuana offenses from being considered in certain sectors, like education, housing and job licensing.

The measure also aims at getting cannabis industry participation for minorities and women, the leaders said.

Unlike earlier versions of the legislation that called for phasing in an escalating sales tax on marijuana, the deal calls for a $42 per ounce tax on the product.

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It also lets towns collect tax revenue, as well. Municipalities with cannabis retailers could collect 3 percent tax, those with cultivators will collect 2 percent and those with wholesalers would get 1 percent.

The measure calls for a five-member regulatory commission, with the governor appointing three members. The other two would be picked on the advice of the Senate president and Assembly speaker.

Some Republicans have been skeptical about legalization. Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale echoed former GOP Gov. Chris Christie’s criticism of legalizing marijuana, predicting that while the state’s tax revenues will climb so too would traffic accidents.

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“That blood money that he’s going to collect in taxes that is blood money. It is going to come from the blood of people who don’t use marijuana who unfortunately are involved with people who do.”

Sweeney has said he would need Murphy’s help in getting enough votes in the Senate for legalization. The Assembly is expecting a committee vote on the deal on Monday. A floor vote is possible March 25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • FlunkedAgain

    “That blood money that he’s going to collect in taxes that is blood money.

    What about the Blood Money from Alcohol?

    • Chuck14od

      Or from Big Pharma and the Medical Cartel?! Can people be this brainwashed, and this Ignorant? Maybe they aren’t, they are just Paid to represent the big money interests that are losing big bucks. I believe there is a report out by Medicare where there has been an annual savings of 100 Million from states that have Medicinal Marijuana and sales of narcotics, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety meds have declined that much in payouts for drugs from Medicare.
      And only when Big Pharma and Big Agriculture get control of cannabis, then and only then, will it become Legal and acceptable to all.

  • GoWiThaFlo

    This article contains a glaring factual error that must be corrected a.s.a.p., please. It says, New York “lawmakers are considering adult-use legalization but appear increasingly likely to miss a key legislative deadline and be forced to return to the issue next year.”

    I suppose you refer to April Fool’s Day, when, by law, a budget for New York’s next fiscal year must be passed. Years ago there were major disagreements that prevented previous state Legislatures and governors from complying with that law; they dragged the budget process out for weeks on end. Today, though, there are ongoing debates related to key details of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, and THEY are not likely to be resolved before April 1 due to a wide variety of other, unrelated and very complex issues that must be in the budget. Historically, many important bills have been passed in New York after April 1 because the actual “legislative deadline” for the whole year is toward the end of June.

    The BIG factor that Leafly overlooks here is the firm control that New York Democrats have on the Assembly, Senate and Executive Office, which has not been the case in a long time. Plus, the leaders of all three branches have signaled strong support in public for full cannabis legalization to get done this year–and they continue doing so.

    Just this week, David Lombardo of the Albany Times Union reported that the Assembly has included $35+ million for a “cannabis management program” in its budget proposal. Please stay tuned…

  • viper643

    Mr. Cardinale is merely repeating a sound bite from previous politicals. Reefer Madness is deeply rooted in policy of our government. Prohibition will not be over turned until the brainwashed dolts in government lose an election.

  • Laird Ehlert

    I am wondering how other cannabis products such as edibles and vape oils will be taxed. And how will New Jersey’s tax rate compare to surrounding states’ taxes?