Murphy, top Dems reach broad agreement on adult-use marijuana

By Emily Bader
New Jersey | Mar 12, 2019 at 12:34 pm

An agreement has been made by Gov. Phil Murphy and top New Jersey Democrats on the  legalization of adult-use marijuana in New Jersey.

Murphy, along with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) jointly announced Tuesday they have settled on a broad outline for adult-use marijuana legislation.

Murphy said the legislation should establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunities to the state.

“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” Murphy said. “After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation. I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities, while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.”

Under the agreement:

  • Adult-use marijuana will be subject to an excise tax of $42 per ounce;
  • Municipalities that are home to a cultivator or manufacturer will receive revenue from a 2 percent tax on the product;
  • Municipalities that are home to a wholesaler will receive the revenue from a 1 percent tax;
  • Municipalities that are home to a retailer will receive the revenue from a 3 percent tax.

“This plan will allow for the adult use of cannabis in a responsible way,” Sweeney said. “It will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been since the end of Prohibition. This plan will also advance important social justice reforms to help reverse the discriminatory impact that drug laws have had on diverse communities.”

The bill calls for a Cannabis Regulatory Commission to govern all aspects of recreational cannabis. The commission will have five members, all appointed by the governor, but two will be chosen from recommendations by the Speaker and Senate President. The commission will also promote all regulations and govern the industry, and will oversee the applications for licensing dispensaries.

“The prohibition on marijuana has long been a failed policy,” Scutari said. “This plan will bring an end to the adverse effects our outdated drug laws have had on the residents of our state. As a regulated product legalized marijuana will be safe and controlled. It is time to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey and this is a well crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”

Bill provisions include an expedited expungement process for people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses and a virtual expungement process.

Additionally, there are provisions to ensure broad-based participation in the industry for minority- and women-owned businesses, low- and middle-income individuals, and disadvantaged communities.

Coughlin said he’s proud of the social justice components of the bill.

“The agreement reached to legalize adult-use cannabis is the result of incredibly hard work by many people over many months,” Coughlin said. “Getting to this point wasn’t easy. We talked and we negotiated in good faith, but most importantly, we listened. I want to thank Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for their tireless efforts and willingness to compromise so we could put forth the most responsible legislation possible. I believe this new, regulated industry will help boost our economy, but I’m particularly proud of the critical social justice components included in the bill.”

“After months of discussions and debate, I am proud that we have come to an agreement on a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis,” Quijano said. “We learned from stakeholders and listened to opponents. The final product is fair, responsible and focused on social justice. I want to thank Speaker Coughlin for his leadership in the Assembly and express my gratitude to Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for partnering with us in this daunting endeavor.”

Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, said adult-use legalization is the right choice for New Jersey.

“I want to thank Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Speaker Coughlin, Senator Scutari, and Assemblywoman Quijano for coming together and doing the right thing for New Jersey. The time for legalization has come. The old ‘reefer madness’ myths have been dispelled. We know legalizing recreational adult-use cannabis and expanding medical cannabis in New Jersey will address issues of social justice, help the state’s economy, and create a new, thriving workforce.

“It is time. Time to bring New Jersey in line with other states that have moved ahead with legalization and realized the numerous benefits it brings. I look forward to working with leadership to ensure legislation passes as soon as possible.”

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Emily Bader | ebader@roi-nj.com | emilybader