A proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older has advanced in the New Jersey Legislature. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the measure, and it will now go to the full chamber for a vote. Governor Phil Murphy has expressed strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.
“New Jersey is one step closer to replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation,” stated Kate M. Bell, general counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Arresting adult cannabis consumers is a massive waste of law enforcement officials’ time and resources, and it does nothing to improve public health or safety. Prohibition forces marijuana sales into the underground market, where it is impossible to control them. Under the proposed regulated system, businesses will be governed by strict rules, and authorities will be empowered to make sure those rules are being followed.”
The legislation would:
- allow adults 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (seven grams);
- cultivation of any amount of marijuana remains a crime;
- set a tax rate of 12% of the retail price (including the sales tax), plus an optional local tax of up to 2%;
- provide for five types of regulated marijuana businesses: growers, product manufacturers, wholesalers, testing facilities, and retailers, who can deliver marijuana and some of which may be permitted to include consumption areas;
- allow local jurisdictions extensive control over the number and types of businesses in their borders, including the ability to impose local licensing requirements; and
- establish a five-member appointed Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which would serve as the regulatory agency overseeing both the new adult-use and the existing medical cannabis programs.
If the bill passes this year, New Jersey will be the first state to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana via the legislature. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in Washington, D.C. have adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but they do not give non-patients anywhere to buy it.
Recreational marijuana laws have been adopted by voters via ballot initiatives in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.