Legislation to Legalize Marijuana Passed by New Jersey Committees

New Jersey’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee both approved bills on Monday to legalize marijuana for everyone 21 and older.

A proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older advanced in the New Jersey Legislature Monday. 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 measures will now go to the full chambers for a vote. Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.

The amended version of the legislation:

  • 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.

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.

“New Jersey is one step closer to replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation”, says Kate M. Bell, general counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “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. 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.”

Bell continues; “We are encouraged by the ongoing discussion about how best to address the history of racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws. By streamlining the expungement process, the state can help ensure people with criminal records for marijuana-related offenses get a clean slate. Nobody should be branded a criminal simply for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”

Emily Watkins is a PhD student majoring in public policy. Emily has been a freelance editor for numerous websites, and has spent hundreds of hours volunteering to help legalize marijuana. She currently resides in Los Angeles, and can be reached at Watkins.MarijuanaHerald@Gmail.com.

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