New Jersey’s grownup marijuana invoice awaits the governor’s signature
NJ stepped up its legal weed control through actions to decriminalize distribution and redistribute taxes to neglected communities.
In November, New Jersey voters approved the nationwide sale of cannabis by a two-to-one margin. Today New Jersey legislators passed a move to establish a recreational marijuana market in Garden State.
The bill will next be sent to Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, who has promised to legalize it in 2017 and is expected to pass the bill. Murphy’s signature will be the last seal of approval required to launch a legal cannabis market in the Garden State.
The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the law during meetings held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
New Jersey connects 15 other states and the District of Columbia with recreational marijuana.
5 takeaways from New Jersey’s bill to legalize cannabis
After the vote on legalization on November 3rd
The change, which allows the use of leisure activities for adults aged 21 and over, will take effect on January 1, 2021. However, it can take months for pharmacies to appear due to few social and legal concerns on the legislature.
Although voters overwhelmingly support the bill, it took some late amendments to get it through at all levels of state government. Additions to the bill include tax and law enforcement provisions that support citizens and communities hardest hit by the failed war on drugs.
Despite strong voter support, the legislature passed the law with comparatively narrow limits: 49-24 with six abstentions in the Assembly, where 41 votes are needed, and 23-17 in the Senate, where 21 votes are needed.
If enacted, the legislation includes a schedule that recreational cannabis could be available in New Jersey in about six months.
Social justice issues in the game
Critics of the November bill wanted more restorative justice provisions, and a big part of the compromise is a creative new tax structure. Seventy percent of the 7% sales tax on cannabis products goes to communities where marijuana laws have been disproportionately enforced in the past. The other 30% would go to the national budget.
Support for legalized marijuana in New Jersey centered on what Murphy and his advocates called social justice – correcting years of unequal application of the marijuana ban that resulted in black residents bringing charges more often than white people.
“This will usher in a new era for social justice by ending failed policies that criminalize the use of marijuana,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari, the law’s main sponsor.
Mixed harm reduction ratings
There are still many activists and entrepreneurs who are still not satisfied with every element of the 200-page bill. Despite advocacy from medical marijuana patients who want the legal right to grow up to six plants, penalties for growing cannabis are still not being reduced. In other countries, medical patients can expand their own services.
Democratic State Senator Ronald Rice, who is Black, has long feared that legalization will ban black business people in favor of large, white-run companies.
He and Scutari argued during Thursday’s remote voting. After Senate President Steve Sweeney cautioned lawmakers and encouraged cordiality, Rice suggested he had more than one disagreement with Scutari.
Still, some welcomed the passage of the law.
“For too long our brothers and sisters have suffered from the racist policies that criminalized black and Latin American people when drugs were introduced into our communities,” Rev. Charles Boyer, an episcopal preacher and African Methodist lawyer, said in a statement. “I hope that we will start a new era for our state.”
The bill also states that distributing up to an ounce will only result in a written warning of first-time violations.
Senator Teresa Ruiz said Thursday: “Decriminalization is an essential part of ensuring that our marijuana policies protect disenfranchised communities and that our adoption must be a priority, even after legalization comes into effect.”
200 pages with detailed regulations
Legislation is a thicket of technical details closely watched by lobbyists and companies interested in opening a business in New Jersey.
For consumers, the legislation means cannabis is subject to state sales tax of 6.625%, with the option for cities to levy a tax of up to 2%.
Another compromise is a “consumption tax” for producers, which will fluctuate as wholesale prices fall. The tax will be anywhere from $ 10 to $ 60 an ounce as prices are expected to rise between $ 200 and $ 350.
The calculation contains four tax levels. So if cannabis is $ 350 or more, the tax per ounce is $ 10. That goes up to $ 60 an ounce if the retail price of the product is less than $ 250.
All excise tax revenue goes to the majority of the black and brown communities neglected by previous cannabis laws.
Full speed ahead in New Jersey
Another part of the bill that emerged from negotiations with the legislature is to limit the number of licenses for farmers. They are set at 37 for two years. The Senate didn’t push for limits, but the Assembly wanted the limits.
And the legislature didn’t stop there. They are also considering a measure (S2535 / A1897) to decriminalize marijuana, which is necessary because the state’s laws make possession a crime despite the voter-approved change. This measure would, among other things, enable the transport of up to 6 ounces of cannabis.
On Monday, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told the Judiciary Committee, “There is no question that in a year or two we will be back saying that there is an unintended consequence. And we’re going to fix that because we want this industry to thrive. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Calvin Stovall writes and produces media in Atlanta, GA and runs day-to-day operations for The Artistic Unified Exchange, a nonprofit that protects intellectual property on behalf of independent artists and underserved communities.
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