New Jersey Legislature Cancels Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
On Monday, March 25, 2019, the New Jersey Legislature canceled a planned vote on a bill that would have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older.
According to state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the vote to enact the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act (the bill) was canceled because the initiative lacked the 21 votes necessary for passage. For the bill to successfully pass, New Jersey requires 21 votes in the state Senate and 41 votes in the state Assembly.
Designed to legalize recreational possession up to one ounce, the proposed bill, which included major amendments added at the last minute, aimed to tax marijuana at a flat rate of $42 per ounce and permitted municipalities to tax retailers at 3 percent, growers and processors at 2 percent and wholesalers at 1 percent.
Although people would be prohibited from consuming cannabis in public spaces, the bill would have assigned designated consumption areas for use (mainly dispensaries). The bill also would have authorized casinos and hotels to have consumption areas.
Monday’s cancellation postponed two other initiatives linked to the bill. The first would have diversified the state’s marijuana program. The proposed bill would have required at least 10 percent of the licenses for marijuana businesses to go to small companies, targeting low-income or high-crime ”impact zones” with high marijuana-related arrests, such as Camden, Newark, and Trenton.
The second initiative would have made it possible to expunge nonviolent criminal records for marijuana-related offenses. People with past convictions would have been eligible to request an expungement online so long as their conviction did not involve more than five pounds of cannabis. Those currently in prison or on parole or probation also were eligible.
With the state budget now a major focus for legislatures, it may be months before lawmakers take up the recreational marijuana bill.
According to NJ.com, Governor Murphy has a contingency plan for the vote’s cancellation. The administration aims to add between 30 and 50 licenses for those who cultivate medical marijuana and later expand licenses for manufacturers and dispensaries that sell it.
New Jersey would have been the eleventh state to legalize marijuana, along with Washington, D.C.