Rory Savatgy

New Jersey Lawmakers Advance Legalization Plan

New Jersey lawmakers have started to consider legislation that would legalize adult-use cannabis throughout the state, the Associated Press reports.

UPDATED: The New Jersey budget committee voted in favor of advancing the legalization legislation. The proposal now moves toward full floor votes in the Assembly and Senate.

Lawmakers convened Monday for a joint Democrat-led Assembly and Senate budget committee to discuss the state’s latest cannabis legalization legislation package. The proposal has been championed by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who opened today’s discussion with nods toward the potential economic benefits of legalization.

“It’s going to stimulate the economy of New Jersey like nothing ever has before — an entire new industry that people can actually start from the ground level up,” Scutari said. “We’re on the precipice of a historic event here, starting something and creating jobs like not other Legislature has done before. We have that opportunity.

The proposed legislation package includes several amendments to New Jersey cannabis laws:

  • One bill, S2703, would legalize adult-use cannabis and impose a 12 percent state tax with options for local municipalities to levy another 2 percent tax on the industry. The bill would allow possession of up to one ounce of cannabis flower.
  • Two other bills, S10 and S2426, would raise medical cannabis patients’ possession rates and mandate the issuing of 34 new medical cannabis licenses, respectively.
  • A fourth cannabis bill, S3205, would “revise certain procedures for expungement of records of conviction” — S3205, however, has not yet been introduced.

“We stand on the verge of a major change here in New Jersey. It’s been a long road but today we’re on the verge of something very significant, and it’s not something that’s been done haplessly or recklessly. As we go through this bill, there’s a great deal of thought reflected.” — New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee Chair John Burzichelli (D-Salem)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) supports the end of cannabis prohibition but has not weighed in yet on this specific legalization plan. On the campaign trail, then-candidate Murphy said he would call for cannabis legalization within the first 100 days of his administration. Failing that, however, the governor and his party adjusted their goal to legalizing by year’s end.

“We have to take our head out of the sand. We have to realize that what we tried to do simply isn’t working,” Sen. Scutari said on Monday.

Deliberations were still ongoing at the time of this article’s publishing.

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