When New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy took office in January 2018, he promised to legalize weed by the end of the year. Now, a year and two months later, it’s looking like Murphy will finally follow through on his loudest campaign promise.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Gov. Murphy announced that he had reached a legalization agreement with State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Sen. Nicholas Scutari, and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano on a base proposal for the legalization, sale, and taxation of adult-use cannabis.
"Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system," Murphy said in a statement. "I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities, while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes."
The Governor and his legislative colleagues have not yet released the final legalization bill to the public. But based on the information available, it looks like New Jersey will charge a $42-per-ounce flat rate tax on cannabis cultivators, with that fee then presumably passed down through the supply chain to the consumer, and local municipalities will be able to charge an additional fee of up to 3% on businesses in their jurisdiction. We also know that the Garden State will ban home grows, potentially joining Washington State as the second state to fully legalize without approving personal cultivation.
While state officials and cannabis activists celebrate the legalization news, a number of local advocates have spoken out against the proposal, arguing that the current bill would squeeze out local consumers and potentially local businesses.
No homegrow=absolutely a gift to the corporate cannabis monopoly. Expect the highest recreational prices in the country. https://t.co/AqPVDNv9wB— Box Brown (@boxbrown) March 12, 2019
Despite those objections, Gov. Murphy and the state legislators are aiming to go ahead with the plan as quickly as possible, with Sen. Sweeney telling the Asbury Park Press that the bill could face a full legislative vote as soon as March 25th — just two weeks away.
"This plan will allow for the adult-use of cannabis in a responsible way," Sweeney said in a statement. "It will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated, and taxed, just as alcohol has been since the end of Prohibition."
Whether New Jersey’s highly taxed recreational dispensaries will be able to compete with the black market is still yet to be seen. And even if the measure is passed this spring, Gov. Murphy has said that he does not expect recreational sales to begin until the beginning of next year.
"The time for legalization has come. The old ‘reefer madness’ myths have been dispelled," New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Scott Rudder said in a statement. "It is time — time to bring New Jersey in line with other states that have moved ahead with legalization and realized the numerous benefits it brings."
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