Recreational marijuana just took two giant steps closer to being legal in New Jersey after two key committees in the state Assembly and Senate approved a legalization bill backed by Governor Phil Murphy (D). The bill is now headed for a floor vote in both chambers of the state legislature.
On Monday, both the New Jersey Assemble Appropriations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis in the Garden State. The bill's progress through the legislature comes one week after Governor Murphy announced that he had finally reached an agreement with key lawmakers on the specifics of the new legislation.
The bill was supposed to be discussed first thing Monday morning, but it was delayed till the afternoon due to last-minute revisions: the proposed retail cannabis tax rates were changed, and provisions for expungement of minor cannabis-related convictions were expanded. The new legislation would place a state tax of $42 per ounce of cannabis. Local government will then be able to collect taxes of three percent from retailers, two percent from wholesalers and one percent from cultivators located with in their municipalities.
The delay did not appear to hurt the bill's standing, however, as it was passed by a wide margin in both committees, where supporters hailed it as a major step toward fixing racial disparities in the state's justice system.
"There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis," Assemblyperson Annette Quijano (D)—co-sponsor of the legislation—said in a press release. "It is time we listen to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and take a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. This bill is a huge first step."
However, the legalization bill was not without its detractors. Sen. Michael Doherty (R) called legalizing recreational cannabis "a deal with the devil that sacrifices children and communities for short-term political gain."
Murphy's legalization bill will now be headed to a full vote by both branches of legislature. The governor has previously stated he is pushing for the bill to be voted on by March 25 in order to have a legal cannabis market established in New Jersey in the early months of 2020.
h/t Marijuana Moment