Legislature introduces bills that would legalize recreational use of marijuana

Legal recreational use of cannabis in New Jersey is getting closer.

On Wednesday afternoon, the legislature began the process of legalization by submitting two bills that will be heard Monday morning in a joint Senate and Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.

The bills would set a 12 percent tax on marijuana sales, expand the medical marijuana program and address the issue of expungement of marijuana possession and use records.

Here are how they break down.

The first bill, a 147-page bill on recreational use, addresses use for adults, creates a Cannabis Regulatory Commission and addresses some of the expungement relief for past offenses.

The bill calls for a 12 percent tax for the state, and 2 percent excise tax to go to municipalities where shops are set up.

This bill is sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden).

The second bill, a 67-page medical marijuana bill, defines the types of business partnerships that growers and sellers can have, as well as expands the types of medical professionals who can legally provide medically-relevant guidance and information on medical marijuana use to patients.

This bill is sponsored by Scutari, along with Sens. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge) and Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel).

A third bill, intended to solely address expungement, also is expected to be heard Monday.

The bills mark the first real push the state has taken to legalize recreational use of cannabis and make good on a campaign promise Gov. Phil Murphy.

Bill Caruso, counsel at Archer Public Affairs and a longtime thought leader on cannabis use who also serves on the steering committee for New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, viewed the moves positively.

“I think it’s good news on Monday,” he said. “It’s the first historic vote ever on legal adult use in the New Jersey Legislature.”