Current and Potential Future Legal Uses of Marijuana In New Jersey
New Jersey: To Legalize Pot or Not
New expansion of medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational marijuana could be resolved for a vote in early 2019.
In 2018 New Jersey state lawmakers advanced the bill S2703 which would legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana up to one ounce, regulate, create and impose a 12 percent commercial marijuana tax with an extra 2 percent tax raised for who host marijuana business and “expedited expungement” for people who have conviction/arrests for possession of marijuana up to one ounce.
The bill was approved by both Assembly and the state Senate. Now, the bill awaits for a full vote by the Democrat-controlled state Legislature before Governor Phil Murphy gets to sign the bill into law for good. However, lawmakers think the legislation still needs some tweaking. Some of the issues are in the areas of taxation, politics of power and social justice.
“They’ve made good progress, but there are still changes that need to be made,” said Dianna Houenou, a senior policy advisor with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, who spoke in support of legalization at the joint legislative committee.
When it comes to the areas of the bill that need to be worked on; Senator Stephen Sweeney wants to stick to 12 percent taxation to degrade the black market in size, meanwhile Murphy wants a tax rate of 25 percent. It is unknown whether Murphy will support the bill processing through the state legislature. Politically, who and how much will hold the power of the Cannabis Regulatory commission that will consist of people who will manage the industry. Lastly, some of the social justice problems include that about 90 percent of the people that will benefit from marijuana expungements are not eligible.
Some other details of the latest version of the bill includes: Marijuana delivery services, “consumption” areas and smoking lounges created by permitted dispensaries, business opportunities for 30 percent of “socially and economically disadvantage communities,” 10 percent of licenses to micro-business, licensed applicant business must agree to hire workers to represented by labor unions (except for micro-business), preference to applicants whose business would be located in impact zones “for which past criminal marijuana enterprises contributed to higher concentrations of law enforcement activity, unemployment, and poverty,”The bill will also like to reference to the word “cannabis,” rather than “marijuana” when regulated on the market.
“This process has been a long one,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, who has led the charge for legalization in New Jersey. “I started talking about this 15 years ago.”
Medically, since March enrollment of patients has double from 18,500 to 37,500. Murphy lowered the cost of patient registration, which resulted in expanding the list of patients of qualifying medical conditions. The new legislation would give doctors the options to refer more patients to the marijuana medical programs and help them reduce the cost to doctor visits to by remaining in the program without having to prove constant eligibility. The ratio is from 4 to once a year.
“The bill measurably increases patient access and lowers costs, and those are key elements for any patient who, under the current law, has to pay out-of-pocket,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Senate’s health committee.
Sweeney believes the regulated industry can create 43,000 job in New Jersey if recreational marijuana is legalized.
Some of the main requirements for anyone who would like to enter the business are: Have a minimum of $1-2 million dollars to finance, experience of running a successful business, outstanding record with the IRS, a clean background, own a New Jersey residence and have a professional name for your ideal business, this means not using the words marijuana or weed, etc.
Since Phil Murphy became the 56thGovernor of New Jersey as of February 2018, we have seen many backs and forth with the passing of the desired legalization of recreational marijuana bill, but slowly the bill has been coming along in promising ways.
On November 2018, the Governor said, “It’s too early to tell,” during unrelated news conference at his Trenton office when referring to the areas of the bill that still needs to be worked on between himself and the state legislature. He added,”We haven’t commented on specifics, but I am very happy that this is moving.”
As of December 2018, Sweeney said they are making progress, but still don’t have a deal.
“We really had our first significant conversation today on it,” Sweeney said. “I wouldn’t classify anything today as negative. We had a pretty healthy conversation.”
In New Jersey 2018, Murphy’s message during a Facebook Live town hall when asked when marijuana will be legalized:
“We’re closer than not,” on legal weed. “Assuming the legislation comes to me in the way we hope it does, I’ll sign that,” Murphy added. “So hang in there.”
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Paula I. Vera
Senior Communications and Media Arts major
Communications and Media Arts Student graduating from Montclair State University class of 2018. Inspired to tell and share stories from all around the world and create Art.