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New Jersey Introduces Cannabis Legalization Legislation Just Before Gubernatorial Turnover

Phil Murphy will take over for Chris Christie as Garden State Governor next week, and Representatives are wasting no time pushing the Democrat’s most ardent (and pungent) campaign promise.

by Zach Harris

Chris Christie’s contentious tenure as Governor of New Jersey is coming to a close. After eight years comprised of bridge-gate, beach-gate, and negligence in the face of a deadly opioid epidemic, Christie will turn over the keys to the Garden State Governor’s mansion to progressive Democrat Phil Murphy next Tuesday.

To celebrate the highly anticipated changing of the guard, New Jersey state Senator Nicholas Scutari began the legislature’s 2018 session by introducing SB830, the legalization of adult-use  recreational cannabis. Throughout his campaign, Governor-elect Murphy promised to end cannabis prohibition during his first 100 days in office.

Since securing the nomination, Murphy has walked back his 100 day guarantee slightly. That said, he confirmed this week that he would quickly sign any sound piece of cannabis legalization legislation that makes it to his desk.

"I don't want to marry myself to a particular day, but I would hope it's sooner than later,” Murphy told NJ.com on Thursday. "We've just got to make sure we do it right.”

An identical replicant of a legalization bill that Scutari first introduced in 2014, SB830 would allow the possession of one ounce of flower, seven grams of concentrates, 16 ounces of infused edibles, and 72 ounces of infused liquids, as well as the creation of a licensing and regulating system for commercial cultivation and sales to start within a year of the bill’s passing.

And while it’s still not exactly clear what Murphy means when he says he wants to “do it right” — Scutari’s legislation has been public record for four years now — a number of New Jersey cannabis advocates have already spoken up about what they say are holes in the proposal, including a ban on all home grows.

"Home growing is the grassroots of our industry," Brandon Chewey, founder of Shoreganix, a pro-cannabis advocacy group in the Garden State told MERRY JANE last month. "New Jersey is the Garden State and we wouldn't be allowed home grows? We're fighting for it. The legislation could be bought by special interest groups, and that's what we're trying to avoid within the cannabis industry. If they're not good and for the people, we could be looking at another reenactment of the War on Drugs."

Still, no matter how it gets done, cities across New Jersey are already on the edge of their seat waiting for Murphy’s promised green rush. Mayors in both Jersey City and Asbury Park have voiced their support for legal weed, already saying that they would welcome state-sanctioned canna-businesses to their municipalities once Murphy and the state legislature can agree on a path forward.

"We don't want Asbury overrun with dispensaries, but we don't have an issue if it's regulated and taxed," Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said to NJ.com. "We're known for having a variety of businesses. We want more businesses paying us taxes."

Cannabis advocates have argued that legalizing cannabis could bring the cash-strapped Garden State over $300 million in new taxes annually.

(h/t WHYY)

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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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