The wave of cannabis legalization in the United States of America continues to sweep from coast-to-coast. During the 2018 midterm elections, Michigan legalized recreational cannabis use and two other states voted to legalize medicinal cannabis use. Now, New Jersey wants in on the fun. Committees from both the state Senate and state Assembly of New Jersey approved a bill that would legalize the recreational sales and use of cannabis. The bill will now be voted on by the entire Democratic controlled state Legislature. Should it pass, it would then either be signed into law or vetoed by Democratic governor Phil Murphy. Murphy promised during the New Jersey Governor’s race that he would legalize recreational cannabis during his time in office.
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How New Jersey Legalization Would Work
The recreational cannabis legalization bill, which was revealed to the public only last week, would legalize the possession and use of one ounce or less of marijuana for people at least 21 years old. According to NJ.com, the bill would also impose a 12 percent tax on the commercial marijuana industry in the state. An extra 2 percent excise tax could be raised for towns which host cannabis businesses.
The legalization bill would most importantly force the Administrative Office of the Courts to establish an electronic filing system for expedited expungements. Language within the bill states that this must occur within the first six months of the passage of the bill.
When commenting on whether or not he would support the bill in its current form, Gov. Murphy said, “It’s too early to tell,” elaborating that, “We haven’t commented on specifics, but I am very happy that this is moving [forward].”
Critics on Both Sides of the Aisle
As with any state that considers cannabis legalization, there are some who are critical of New Jersey’s legalization bill. State Senator Ron Rice, a Democrat, said that the bill being considered by the state Legislature is, “…not about social justice. It’s about money for white investors.” Rice made clear that he would like to see more in the way of sentence reduction and higher taxes. Some other opponents believe that cannabis’ health concerns need to be better understood before the state legalizes it recreationally. Issues such as cannabis addiction and driving while high are of concern to many opponents of legalization.
Though there are some concerns over whether or not the New Jersey legalization bill will pass or be signed into law by Gov. Murphy, it will likely still succeed. New Jersey citizens will know the future of cannabis in their state when the full Legislative vote occurs likely within the next few weeks.