Murphy finally has deal on legal marijuana — How it would work in NJ
It was one of his centerpiece campaign promises and now, nearly two years after his election, Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic legislative leaders have a deal to legalize recreational marijuana.
Negotiations on legalization have been held up by debates on taxes and how to deal with individuals who have been caught up in the criminal justice system as a result of prohibition.
Lawmakers on Tuesday underscored how legalization, and this proposed law in particular, would address those “social justice” concerns.
Although a final bill continues to be tweaked, here is what the proposal would mean for New Jersey:
- Marijuana would be legal for medical or recreational use for adults only.
- Adults would only be allowed to purchase “limited amounts” for personal use.
- A tax of $42 an ounce would be imposed on marijuana when it is cultivated.
- A 1 percent tax on marijuana wholesales would be collected by or paid to municipalities where the wholesalers are located.
- A 2 percent tax on marijuana cultivation or manufacturing would be collected by or paid to municipalities where the manufacturers are located.
- A 3 percent tax on marijuana sales would be collected by or paid to municipalities where retailers are located.
- The marijuana industry would be regulated by a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission appointed by the governor. Three members would be appointed by the governor without Senate approval while two would be appointed by the governor with the recommendations of the Assembly speaker and Senate president.
- Expungement for past misdemeanor marijuana convictions would be expedited. This would prevent low-level marijuana offenses from being considered in education, housing and occupational licensing.
- Several provisions would “ensure broad-based participation in the industry for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises … low- and middle-income individuals, and disadvantaged communities across the state,” lawmakers said in a news release Tuesday.
A number of municipalities have already ruled themselves out as the homes of future marijuana retailers or dispensaries by adopting laws that ban sales in anticipation of legalization.
There also would be local ordinances regulating where in public people might be allowed — or not — to smoke or consume marijuana.
New Jersey 101.5 reported early Tuesday morning that leaders do not believe that they had enough votes in the Assembly and state Senate to pass the bill.
New Jersey would follow 10 states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing recreational pot.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” Murphy said in a statement Tuesday. “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.
Senate President Steven Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said “this plan will allow for the adult use of cannabis in a responsible way.”
“The prohibition on marijuana has long been a failed policy,” state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, a longtime proponent of legalization said. “This plan will bring an end to the adverse effects our outdated drug laws have had on the residents of our state. As a regulated product legalized marijuana will be safe and controlled. It is time to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey and this is a well crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”