New Jersey Legislature Reaches Deal on Cannabis Legalization

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says state lawmakers have reached a deal to legalize and regulate cannabis after voters overwhelmingly approved a voter initiative calling for the reforms last month.

Full story after the jump.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said on Friday that lawmakers have come to an agreement on the bills to legalize cannabis required by the voter-approved ballot question. In a statement posted on Twitter, Murphy said the legislation “is a critical step in reducing racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued” the state’s criminal justice system.

“This legislation will accomplish our shared goals of delivering restorative justice and ensuring that the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs see the economic benefits of the adult-use cannabis market. While there is still much work ahead, we are one step closer to building a news, promising industry for our state.” – Murphy in a statement

According to an NBC New York report, the legalization bill caps cultivation licenses at 37 but allows licensed growers to open as many dispensaries as they can get approved by municipalities. The cap will expire after two years.

The measure allows municipalities to impose a 2 percent sales tax, while the state will impose its standard 6.625 percent sales tax. Eventually, cannabis sales will also carry a social equity tax which is not included in this version of the legislation; however, the bill does apply 70 percent of revenues derived from sales to a social equity fund. The remaining will be used for law enforcement training for cannabis-impaired driving and administering the program.

State Sen. Nick Scutari (D) – a longtime champion of drug law reforms in New Jersey – told CBS New York that the measure includes language to lower psilocybin penalties to a misdemeanor charge. He said there would be a separate bill to downgrade possession from a three-to-five-year prison term to up to six months in jail.

“I’m gratified that leaders of both houses and the and the governor have come together on a state-of-the-art piece of legislation in accordance with the wishes of the voters,” Scutari told NBC New York. “I’m also gratified I didn’t waste the last 10 years of my life on this.”

The measure still requires full legislative approval. The possession reforms included in the legalization question take effect on January 1.

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