TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Sen. Nicholas Scutari and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano today announced an agreement on the broad outlines of legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” Murphy said in a news release from Assembly Democrats. “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.”
“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.”
“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,” Coughlin said.
Scutari said the agreement is a “well-crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”
Under the terms of the agreement, adult-use marijuana will be subject to an excise tax of $42 per ounce, which will be imposed when marijuana is cultivated. In addition, municipalities that are home to a cultivator or manufacturer will receive the revenue from a 2 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction. Municipalities that are home to a wholesaler will receive the revenue from a 1 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction, while municipalities that are home to a retailer will receive the revenue from a 3 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction.
Adult-use marijuana will be governed by a five member Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Three members will be appointed by the governor, with initial appointments serving four-year terms not subject to Senate confirmation. Two other members will be appointed by the governor, upon the recommendations of the speaker and Senate president. The commission will promulgate all regulations to govern the industry and will oversee the applications for licensing of adult-use marijuana dispensaries.
Provisions in the bill establish an expedited expungement process for individuals convicted of low-level marijuana offenses, and a virtual expungement process that will automatically prevent certain marijuana offenses from being taken into account in certain areas such as education, housing and occupational licensing. Additionally, there are a number of provisions that aim to ensure broad-based participation in the industry for minority and women-owned enterprises, low- and middle-income individuals and disadvantaged communities across the state.
Final text of the legislation will be released in the coming days, subject to pending technical edits.