Governor Phil Murphy has said he hopes to have adult use legislation on his desk by the end of the year.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is now closer than ever to fulfilling his campaign promise to legalize recreational marijuana in the Garden State.
In a joint committee session yesterday, state lawmakers approved legislation that would legalize the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana for adults 21 and older.
After hearing close to four hours of testimony, the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed the bill with a vote of seven to four, while the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the bill seven to three.
“Today’s vote is a step in the right direction for New Jersey,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jerey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a press release.
“For too long, New Jersey’s marijuana laws have harmed families and communities, particularly communities of color. African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites despite similar rates of use, and anecdotal evidence suggests similar disparities for Latinos. Legalizing marijuana for adult-use is essential to help repair these wrongs,” she added.
The bill will now be sent to the full Legislature for a vote. If approved by the Senate and the Assembly, it will then reach Murphy for consideration.
Murphy has made marijuana legalization a central focus, both while campaigning and since taking office at the beginning of the year. He has touted the tax revenue benefits of legalization, and also said that ending prohibition would provide a solution to social injustice and incarceration and conviction rates in New Jersey.
“New Jersey holds the dubious distinction of ranking second in the nation in per capita annual marijuana arrests. This policy disproportionately impacts young people of color, violates civil liberties, and is an egregious waste of public resources that can be reprioritized elsewhere. The people of New Jersey are ready to move forward. Their representatives should approve this legislation this year and replace the failed practice of prohibition with the sensible policy of legalization and regulation,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.
Following the votes, Murphy’s office released a statement affirming that the governor “remains committed to legalizing adult-use marijuana, a critical step in eliminating racial disparities in our criminal justice system.”
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced recreational marijuana legislation in June, but efforts to push the bill through committee stalled.
New Jersey’s New Marijuana Legislation
The legislation passed by the joint committee would allow adults 21 and older to legally buy, use, and possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, it would also do the following:
- Establish a Cannabis Control Commission responsible for issuing marijuana licenses.
- Allow vertically integrated marijuana businesses.
- Apply a 12% sales tax at the state level and give local communities the ability to apply a 2% tax.
- Permit retail stores to also create separate areas for consuming marijuana, provided local authorities approve.
- Establish programs aimed at supporting minority- and female-owned marijuana businesses.
- Give local jurisdictions the right to ban marijuana businesses.
- Allow cannabis delivery services.
If the bill is signed into law, New Jersey would become the first state to legalize a full-fledged marijuana industry through the action of lawmakers. Vermont in January became the first to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use via the Legislature, but its law doesn’t establish a commercial market.
While approval by the full Legislature is still needed, yesterday was a big step toward legalization in New Jersey.
“Today’s Senate and Assembly votes are a victory for common sense and for sound public policy in New Jersey. We look forward to lawmakers on the Assembly and Senate floors acting swiftly to approve this legislation to send to Governor Murphy to sign into law,” NORML’s Altieri noted.
“I’m very happy [legalizing recreational marijuana] is moving,” Gov. Murphy says. He says again it’s a social justice issue for him.
— NJ.com (@njdotcom) November 26, 2018
Sixty-two percent of New Jerseyans are in favor of completely legalizing marijuana, according to recent poll from Quinnipiac University.
Additional Marijuana Legislation
In the joint session of Senate and Assembly committees, two additional cannabis bills were approved. One would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program. The other would create a framework for an “expedited expungement” process for individuals with prior marijuana arrests and convictions.