New Jersey took a big step Monday toward becoming the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana when separate panels in the Senate and the Assembly approved identical legislation and sent it to the full Legislature for a vote.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a pro-marijuana Democrat, has said he wants a legalization bill to be sent to his desk before year-end, although he hasn’t yet committed to supporting this particular version.
New Jersey would become the first state to legalize a full-fledged recreational marijuana industry via the Legislature. In January, Vermont was the first to legalize adult use via the Legislature of the possession and use of recreational cannabis.
The Garden State legislation would legalize the possession, use and purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. It also would:
- Set up a Cannabis Control Commission that would issue marijuana licenses based on market demand.
- Tax cannabis sales at 12% at the state level and would allow local governments to apply a 2% tax.
- Permit retail stores to create separate cannabis consumption areas, if local authorities approve.
- Set up programs to support minority-owned and female-owned MJ businesses, as well as small businesses.
- Allow local jurisdictions to ban MJ businesses.
- Permit cannabis delivery services.
The votes by the Senate budget committee and Assembly budget and appropriations committee came after a monthslong delay in the legalization effort.
Sen. Stephen Sweeney, a supporter, said he is still fighting for the cannabis tax rate to be lower because of concerns New Jersey’s black market otherwise would continue to thrive.
Laurent Crenshaw, senior director of government affairs of Eaze, a marijuana delivery platform, said permitting deliveries would address the concern of access for residents of communities that don’t want retail stores within their boundaries.