Inhabitants of the garden state may be in for a treat this month.
Earlier this week the office of Governor Phil Murphy has announced an agreement on legalizing recreational adult use has been reached. A vote on the new law is expected for March 25. Governor Murphy would then sign the bill the same week.
Murphy announced the agreement in a press release. He stated a regulatory and tax framework had been agreed with lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nicholas Scutari.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,”
“After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation.”
— Phil Murphy, Governor New Jersey
The bill will see the creation of a state Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will design and implement the rules for cultivators and retail. Legalization would also allow the state to redistribute resources in other sectors other issues, Murphy said, with an explicit hint to law enforcement.
“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 law will tax cannabis at $42/ounce at the cultivation level by the state, with additional taxes to be levied by the jurisdictions which are home to the businesses (2% for cultivators, 1% for wholesalers, and 3% for retailers).
More so, the agreement also includes the expedition of expungement of criminal convictions for minor marijuana offenses. The state will also implement a “virtual expungement process that will automatically prevent certain marijuana offenses from being taken into account in certain areas such as education, housing, and occupational licensing”.
Lastly, the bill includes integrated diversity encouragement for minorities, women, and disadvantaged communities, as highlighted by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano.
“We learned from stakeholders and listened to opponents. The final product is fair, responsible and focused on social justice.”
— Annette Quijano
It is expected that the bill will pass the Assembly floor as early as March 25th.
Obviously, it will still take time, after signing of the bill, before the Garden State citizens will be able to light up and toke legally — pending creation and actual activity of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission — but New Jersey may join the fold of the more progressive states. It may still be among the earliest movers to get a share of the growing market before possible federal descheduling. This could see the early cultivators benefit a possible headstart if one of the largest cannabis related problems for manufacturers is solved.