Will New Jersey Be the Next State to Legalize Weed?

Voters in Michigan and North Dakota will have a chance to legalize marijuana on Election Day, but lawmakers in New Jersey could beat them to the punch. After much back-and-forth all year long, legislators have finally crafted a bill to legalize marijuana.

The bill, building on an earlier proposal by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), is now being reviewed by the office of Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who campaigned on a platform that included marijuana legalization. Only minor changes are expected to come from the governor's office, and then the legislature should be ready to move.

Murphy had talked about legalizing weed in his first hundred days in office. That didn't happen. Legislative leaders then talked about doing it before the end of this month. That's unlikely to happen, given the need for hearings and the fact that the bill hasn't officially been filed yet. But now legislators are talking about getting it done by the end of next month.

While the bill hasn't yet been filed, New Jersey Advance Media has obtained a draft. Here's what the measure will include:

·         The legalization of the possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana for people 21 and over, but not home cultivation.

·         The creation of a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

·         The creation of a Cannabis Regulatory Commission to craft rules and regulations based on the foundations in the bill. The five-member body appointed by the governor would also provide oversight for the industry.

·         No ceiling on the number of potential licenses granted. That would be up to the commission.

·         A 10 percent tax on marijuana sales, which would be among the lowest in the country.  Earlier versions had taxes rising to 15 percent or 25 percent over time, but not this one—although there are reports that Gov. Murphy wants a higher tax, so this could change.

·         Marijuana lounges would be permitted. Businesses with a marijuana retail license could apply to have a consumption space, but they would have to get local as well as state approval to do so.

·         Marijuana delivery services would be allowed. If a business has a retail marijuana license, it could get permission from the state to deliver to customers.

·         Creation of an office of business development for women, minorities, and disabled veterans, with 25 percent of all licenses set aside for these groups. Depending on negotiations, that 25 percent could revert to being a goal instead of a mandate.

·         Creation of micro-licenses aimed at allowing smaller businesses to get in the game. The bill calls for at least 10 percent of licenses to be micro-licenses.

·         Targeted support for areas with high unemployment. Any town with an unemployment rate that ranks in the top 10 percent in the state would be considered a "social impact zone." The bill sets a goal of awarding 25 percent of all licenses to applicants who have lived in such a zone for at least three years.

·         Expungement of past convictions has yet to be finalized. Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union) has been working on that issue and says expungement language will be in the final version of the bill.

Except for any changes coming from the governor's office, this is what legalization is going to look like in New Jersey. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) says he has the votes to pass the bill and is looking to get it done next month. Assembly Speaker Chris Coughlin (D-Middlesex) is also onboard. Will New Jersey get it done fast enough to beat Michigan and North Dakota, where voters will decide on November 6? Stay tuned.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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One of the most progressive

One of the most progressive legalization laws in the country but no home cultivation? Don't understand that move at all.

Yes, that makes it all the more infuriating

Every way the state can make money off it under the sun will be legal, but it's too dangerous to allow people to grow their own. Who the fuck are you trying to fool, arrogant pig moneybag fascist Democrats?

Dain Bramage's picture

Anything Good A Republican Can Do, A Democrat Can Do Better

Are you nuts?  Nobody but a Democrat will do as much!  Can you even imagine a Republican agreeing to all the other things, like dispensaries, and stopping the arrests?  No.  Way.

Please don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Stopping the arrests is the first priority.  It's a hell of a start!

No way in hell I'm supporting this piece of garbage

No home cultivation??? FUCK that fascist garbage. People get rich growing quantity while we still go to jail for growing our own. Stabbed in the back again, I knew it was coming. FUCK you, New Jersey Democrats.

Dain Bramage's picture

Stopping the arrests

Stopping the arrests is the first priority.

I WOULD SUPPORT this move.  They can add homegrow later.

Homegrow

How is Wash. State doing on homegrow? After how many years?

Dain Bramage's picture

Better

Even an illegal homegrower is better off in a state that has legal marijuana than one who doesn't. 

I fully support and endorse the right to homegrow.  But I also believe in Harm Reduction.  To reject this legalization because it does not include homegrow is to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, which would be a mistake.

Sorry, the stench of money rules is too nauseating

 Safe enough for people to sell in large quantity for a profit, safe enough to have people travel to gather in public, safe enough for delivery services, but not safe enough to let the little guy grow his own? FUCK that in your face hypocritical richie garbage. There's no reason in hell to think they'll ever change it to allow homegrow. There's nothing in it for the state and nothing in its for the marijuana industry and their lobbyists. I need to be able to grow my own before I die. 

Sure they could add home grow later. But why would they?

No campaign contributions in it. For the sake of justice? Don't make me laugh.

I'm certainly not advocating that people vote for Republicans, certainly they are much worse than Democrats on weed. But this proposed law is a stinking pile of wildly hypocritical fascist alcohol supremacist bigot thug richie garbage. How dare they let people manufacture killer alcohol but not grow the cannabis plant?

Doesn't matter in the slightest what I think anyway.

Dain Bramage's picture

Your views matter

First, your views do matter.  I appreciate this discussion.  Thank you for that.

Secondly, you are preaching to the choir about the money, and the corruption that goes with it.  I hate Corporate America more than anyone I know!  And I consider Capitalism A SCAM.

So we aren't so far apart, it seems.  But progress is often incremental.  We are up against people who are not going to be reasonable or fair, ever.  They will never concede anything voluntarily.  We must fight for every inch of turf.

That's why I say, overall, for all its flaws, this change seems positive to me.

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