New Jersey could become the next U.S. state to legalize adult use marijuana.
New Jersey lawmakers have responded to Gov. Phil Murphy’s request for a bill that will legalize recreational marijuana. Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Nicholas Scutari last week introduced legislation that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older.
“The legislation to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use would eliminate the draconian laws and penalties currently in place and improve social justice issues in urban areas,” said Scutari. “Law-abiding adults will be able to partake legally and safely knowing exactly what they’re ingesting.”
Murphy had campaigned on the vow to legalize recreational marijuana, and since taking office in January has reiterated his promise, saying his goal was to pass legislation by the end of the year. While he has called legalization a “social justice” issue, he also estimates that legalizing adult use cannabis would generate $60 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
Nearly 6-in-10 New Jersey residents support Murphy’s efforts, according to a recent poll from Monmouth University.
The legislation from Sweeney and Nicholas would allow adults to buy, consume, and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The bill calls for a graduated tax rate on sales, from 10 percent to 25 percent over a four-year period. Individual cities and towns would have 180 days of the law’s enactment to ban sales if they so desired.
The bill calls for 218 marijuana dispensaries throughout the state, with 120 of them meant for recreational sales, and 98 of them for medical. Dispensaries would be allowed to create a separate “retail marijuana consumption area” on the premises.
The law also eliminates denying a person medical care, housing, or employment due to a positive drug test, “unless failing to do so would put the school, employer, or landlord in violation of federal law or cause it to lose a federal contract of funding.”
The combined bill would also loosen regulations of the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing any healthcare provider permitted to write prescriptions for controlled substances to recommend medical marijuana to patients. The move would dramatically increase the number of doctors permitted to participate in the program. The bill also calls for slowly phasing out the current 7 percent sales tax on medical marijuana.
Scutari has been working to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey since 2014. He introduced a recreational bill last year, but under former governor Chris Christie it went nowhere.
Legalized Marijuana in the U.S.
Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana so far. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
New Jersey would become only the second state to legalize adult use marijuana through an act of lawmakers. In all other states, marijuana became legal following voter approval of ballot initiatives.
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