On May 15, Democratic State Senator Nicholas Scutari announced the latest bill for recreational marijuana in New Jersey. The legislation, if approved, will allow adults to possess an ounce of weed, 16 ounces of solid cannabis infusion, 72 ounces of liquid pot infusion, or seven grams of concentrated marijuana products. However, it does not allow for cultivation at home.
The legislative bill would legalize, regulate and tax recreational cannabis throughout the state. It also establishes a regulatory authority, namely the Division of Marijuana Enforcement, to oversee all of this. It will also tax all legal cannabis sales in New Jersey anywhere from 7 percent to 25 percent over a five-year period. Medical pot is already legal, and this bill will make this the ninth state to legalize adult use.
To become law, both legislative houses must pass this bill and the governor must sign it. However, Republican Governor Chris Christie is a staunch opponent of legalization. He has interfered in efforts to grow the state’s medical marijuana program in the past. The governor’s term ends in January next year, and when the electorate votes in November, a new governor will emerge.
Democrat Phil Murphy is the current frontrunner for the mayoral position. He supports legalization of recreational cannabis, as do five other Democratic candidates. Republican candidates are at loggerheads over the issue. Scutari, the sponsor of the state’s medical marijuana law, has been the main lobbyist for legalizing recreational weed.
In the past, Scutari introduced a bill to legalize and tax pot, but it never expanded past the committee. In September last year, Assemblyman Michael Carroll introduced another legalization measure, which also failed. In October 2016, Scutari personally led a state delegation of legislators to Colorado, so that they could analyze the legal cannabis program there.
Scutari is not the only advocate of legalization. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey founded a coalition specifically to lobby the state to legalize recreational use. The ACLU wants a well-regulated industry accessible to anyone who wants to participate in the legal market. It demands ease of entry into the sector, reasonable qualifications, and clean criminal records for previous convicts.
ACLU’s efforts to drive state legalization include conversing with lobbyists and lawmakers to identify their views on the legal debate and to show them how the state can make legalization work successfully. ACLU of New Jersey Policy Council, Diana Houenou, believes legalization inevitable. It is not a question of if, but when. This will not happen, however, until the appointment of a new governor.
Candidates for the position express support for ending prohibition and the war on cannabis and those who use it. Confidence is high that it will happen, and advocates are working hard to ensure it happens soon, and that when it does, anyone will be able to own businesses, work, and find opportunities in this new legal market. Lawmakers are educated from their Colorado trip and doing more to decriminalize.
Lawmakers returned from the trip more knowledgeable. They saw with their own eyes how legalization can work, and how New Jersey can benefit from it. Colorado is still functioning and doing very well from its legal market, and early doomsday criers cannot deny the state its success. Others are also working with lawmakers to ensure legality by next year.
Pete Cammarano, the founder of the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association, is optimistic that New Jersey will be next state to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis. He hopes it will grow the state’s existing medical marijuana market and provide patients with even more access. Cammarano continues to educate legislators and the public to make them more comfortable about voting yes for legalization.
Cannabis is a way of life for many people, and for them, using it is routinely normal. He also believes the Colorado trip enlightening for lawmakers, and that it played a crucial role in changing the minds of a few stubborn pot opponents. This is because they had a chance to see firsthand just how routine, businesslike, and normal the legal weed industry is.
The committee met in early June for further discussion of the issue, but they did not take a vote on it. They are now passing the bill legislatively with bipartisan support. It is really just a case of electing a governor supportive of legalization. Momentum is building toward legalizing adult use. When the new governor comes into office, legislation will be ready and simply be waiting for his or her signature.
It is of significant importance that supportive leadership exists in both houses. Now that lawmakers have extensive education about how legal weed industries work, and successfully too, most are in favor of it, even if they do not have a full understanding of it just yet. New Jersey will not end with a legal recreational market. In fact, it can only grow as legal cannabis sales generate money for fiscal coffers.