Lawmakers in New Jersey Take First Steps Towards Cannabis Legalization

Lawmakers in New Jersey Take First Steps Towards Cannabis Legalization

The Senate and assembly of New Jersey committees recently commenced a hearing to talk about the legalization of cannabis for adults. The “Marijuana Legalization Act,” is part of the discussion, this act is a legislative blueprint that would create a multi-billion-dollar legal cannabis industry and remove minor marijuana-related convictions and arrests. The recent public hearing takes place after months of hidden discussions over the bill. Lawmakers are expected to conduct a vote on the bill, meaning New Jersey could be on its way towards full legalization.

The New Jersey Statehouse is full. Recently, lawmakers are profoundly discussing the New Jersey bill S2703, the “Marijuana Legalization Act.” If the law is successful, lawmakers will have taken a significant step toward implementing a regulated adult-use cannabis industry in New Jersey. Lawmakers will discuss the essence of the bill and decide whether to approve it or not.

Some important fault lines have already risen among lawmakers favoring the bill and those who don’t support its passage. Lawmakers are fundamentally discussing whether legalization would meet up with the social justice objectives stated in the legalization bill. For instance, Democratic Assemblyman and former cop Ronald Rice, denied legalization as economically-motivated, not focused on justice. Governor Murphy was voted for his progressive stance on cannabis, and he stated that legalization is an essential step toward expunging racial inequalities in the criminal legal system.

However, financial matters were also part of the discussion. Taxation has been one of the most contentious issues. The recent public draft of the bill would install a 12 percent tax on the cannabis industry and a 2 percent excise tax for the town that allows cannabis businesses to function within their jurisdictions. Moreover, the issue of public safety was another major point of contention. Lawmakers against the legalization of cannabis fear that child safety measures, drug-impaired driving, and crime should be considered. Those favoring the draft bill reacted by mentioning that alcohol, which is a legal and regulated substance, is more harmful than marijuana regarding public safety.

State bill S2703 would install the laxest adult-use cannabis regulations in the country, at least as far as consumers are concerned. Adults of 21 and older can possess, use, buy and carry up to an ounce of botanicals. However, restrictions also permit other forms of cannabis, including a maximum of 7 grams of concentrates, a pound of edibles and 72 ounces of cannabis-infused liquids. The law would also allow the growing of a maximum of 6 cannabis plants for private consumption.

On the other hand, the law would permit organizations to provide cannabis delivery services. However, the marijuana legalization bill in New Jersey would also allow retail dispensaries to build cannabis lounges. These specially crafted cannabis consumption areas would permit customers to smoke cannabis in public socially. However, such spaces would need recognition from municipal administrators.

The text of the bill also recognizes small-business equity. The state will expedite the expungement of criminal records, and secure 10 percent of all licenses for “micro-businesses.” Moreover, regulators will favor business license applicants found in communities of color.

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