Senator Unveils Legislation to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in NJ

Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari announced that he will introduce new legislation today to legalize the possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana in New Jersey for those who are age 21 and older.

Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana and public support for the effort is at an all-time high, with 60 percent of people in the United States favoring legal recreational marijuana. The bill builds on the successes of other states and incorporates the lessons learned from their experiences, including from Colorado, where Scutari last year led a bipartisan legislative delegation to examine the state’s marijuana industry.

“The drug laws in this country prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana have failed. It is time to end the detrimental effect these archaic laws are having on our residents and our state,” said Senator Scutari (D-Union, Somerset and Middlesex), who authored the law creating New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. “Across the country, states have successfully implemented recreational marijuana laws and it’s time that we begin shaping our own program in New Jersey. This bill 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 where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades.”

Senator Scutari said legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for those who are age 21 and older could generate millions of dollars in tax revenue that can by dedicated to any number of worthy programs, such as substance abuse treatment and prevention efforts, transportation and women’s health. Colorado reported a record $1.3 billion in medical and retail sales of marijuana in 2016, the third year of its program, and an estimated $200 million in taxes. That figure does not include the broader economic impact of the business in the state. The industry also created thousands of jobs in sales, production and related services, which would be duplicated in New Jersey.

In addition, the legalization of marijuana would free up millions of dollars spent each year on enforcement of the state’s marijuana laws, and it would end discriminatory enforcement. New Jersey spends $127 million a year on enforcement, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also found African-Americans are 2.8 times more likely in New Jersey to be arrested for marijuana possession than a Caucasian person, even though the rate of marijuana use is similar. Legalization would eliminate the detrimental effect that a marijuana arrest can have on residents’ lives. It would also strike a blow to criminal enterprises that profit from the illegal market, getting drug dealers off New Jersey’s streets.

The Senator’s bill would:

· Create a recreational marijuana program in New Jersey that would provide for the licensure of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale and retail facilities. The legislation would permit the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana infused product in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, and 7 grams of concentrate; it would prohibit growing marijuana plants at home and consumption of marijuana openly or in a public place.

· Establish the Division of Marijuana Enforcement in the Department of Law and Public Safety that would be charged with regulating the state’s recreational marijuana program under a strict regulatory scheme laid out in the legislation, setting rigorous requirements for every aspect of the program. The regulations would include security requirements for establishments, licensee and employee background checks and screening, a seed-to-sale tracking system, dosage, potency and serving size limits, strict labeling requirements, marketing restrictions and mandatory childproofing of all products.

· Require the division to establish licensing goals for New Jersey residents and minority- and women-owned businesses, and to adopt regulations to implement the program and to begin accepting applications for licenses for marijuana establishments within one year of the bill’s enactment. Upon enactment of the bill, existing medical marijuana establishments could apply for a retail license to operate immediately under the recreational program.

· Give municipalities flexibility to enact local measures governing the operation of marijuana establishments, or prohibiting their operation. The bill would also permit municipalities to issue licenses in local jurisdictions if the division failed to do so 90 days after the one-year timeframe allotted for the division to begin processing applications.

· Establish an escalating sales tax rate on the following schedule, with the aim of encouraging early participation and development of marijuana establishments and to undermine the illegal market: 7 percent in the first year; 10 percent in the second; 15 percent in the third; 20 percent in the fourth; and 25 percent in the fifth year. It would repeal the sales tax on medical marijuana.

· Decriminalize the possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana upon enactment but before implementation, limiting fines to $100, and permit expungement of certain marijuana charges.

“The prohibition of marijuana has been problematic on so many levels. New Jersey cannot afford to sacrifice its public safety and residents’ civil rights by continuing its ineffective and wasteful marijuana enforcement policies,” said Senator Scutari. “Other states’ programs are working well, creating jobs and generating tax revenue, and have not seen the doom-and-gloom scenarios once predicted. Regulating the sale and consumption of marijuana in New Jersey will not only benefit the state financially, but will mean a safer and more responsible way of treating this drug and a more humane way of treating our residents.”

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  1. this is a terrible idea, next they will be legalizing other drugs. bottom line is that these drugs are harmful in that they affect one’s mind….

  2. It’s all about the money, tax money the Democrats can raise. It is NOT about our safety, health or well being. Let them show us the rise in DUI accidents.
    This is the worst idea.
    This is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. The Governor just started an ad campaign for drug addicts and the Democrats are trying to create more drug addicts. You have got to be kidding!!!

  3. The “War on Drugs” is a jobs program.
    Prohibition should’ve taught us that when you make a substance illegal you get more of it.
    Hundreds of published peer reviewed studies have demonstrated that marijuana is far more effective for pain relief than the Opioids that are destroying NJ. Just ask Cancer Patients in the 6 States where it’s legal and the many more where Medical Marijuana is obtainable.

    • Just for your information there is a difference between medical Marijuana and the drug used for recreation. I am not in favor of legalizing Marijuana for pleasure, but for medical usage to ease pain it should be prescribed by a Doctor.

  4. I really hope legal cannabis becomes a reality across the globe, but I am especially excited right now, considering I live in New Jersey.

  5. For those that say it’s one of the worst drugs I’m living proof that it’s not. Since 13 I have suffered from horrible migraines sometimes lasting weeks. Doctors have given me almost anything to help and nothing worked. I have never done drugs and a doctor recommend that I try an edible infused cannabis after having one I didn’t have a migraine for almost 2 months. The worse that can happen to someone that using it all the time can be short term memory. It’s a lot healthier then cigarettes and alcohol. I was happy that they legalized it for medical reasons and I’m happy that they are doing it for recreational use. Making it legal will help our state financially and free up space in jails for people with more serious crimes.

  6. The argument that enforcement has failed is a ludicrous one. Should places with a high murder rate legalize it? Think of the revenue! They could charge $250,000 or more per permit!

  7. If you look at the history of why it was banned, you will find blaring racism as the root. There is no logical explanation why Cannabis is illegal, but alcohol isn’t. And let’s not even get started about the biggest dug epidemic in the US today – prescription drugs. Sure they need to be prescribed, but that a very low hurdle. If you look at the current stats you’ll see many more people going from prescription pain meds to heroin than from cannabis. If cannabis is a gateway drug (as it is often portrayed), then prescription drugs are the open flood gates. And we haven’t even touched on alcohol.

    Just legalize it. It’ll help society in many ways, reduce crime, fill the state and federal coffers and make it less attractive as a once banned product. Just like you need to drink responsibly, so too you need to injest cannabis responsibly.

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