Lawmakers are assured to vote on making New Jersey the 11th state to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
Votes are scheduled on Monday by the Democrat-led Assembly and Senate. The Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned in the motion of cannabis legalization opposing to his predecessor, Republican Chris Christie. However, the vote still remains in an ambiguous position with undetermined outcomes.
If the vote succeeds, New Jersey will join the District of Columbia and other 10 states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational purposes.
Murphy has constantly been seeking support from lawmakers to second the vote and is supporting the legislation throughout.
Despite Democratic control of State government, the subject of cannabis legalization has divided legislators with groups of lawmakers posing against the vote and putting their foot down on the matter saying they weren’t committed to a yes vote on the floor.
The new bill would allow for the possession of marijuana for personal use of up to an ounce for people at the age 21 and above. The drug would be taxed at $42 an ounce, for towns that are host producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, an additional tax up to 3% can be charged in some cases.
The bill also seeks for an investigation of the effects of marijuana on driving and funding drug-recognition experts for law enforcement.
The measure calls for setting up a committee aka a cannabis regulatory commission of five people which would set the ground rules and keep a watch over marijuana regulation in New Jersey.
Out of these 5 people, 3 will be elected as permanent members of the commission by the Governor who would serve for a five-year tenure. The other two members will be named by the Assembly Speaker and Senate.
The new proposal also calls for a complete obliteration of pending charges and prior-cannabis related convictions. Obliteration of marijuana crimes would be followed only for possession up to 5 pounds under the proposal.
The measure also aims to empower and incentivize women and minority groups to participate in the marijuana business domain by marking a 30% of licenses for them.
Lawmakers impose tax per-ounce on marijuana
Most states with legalized cannabis in place levy an excise tax as a percentage, but some states like Alaska also levies a per-ounce tax, which is $50, according to the survey of tax rates by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are proposing for a per-ounce tax of $42, following the foot steps of Alaska. An additional 3% tax might also be levied in case of few towns and retailers. According to the lawmakers of New Jersey, they are pursuing a flat rate to guard the product against revenue fluctuations despite the market price changes.
Medical marijuana is subjected to the state’s 6.625% sales tax in New Jersey, but this is being phased out by 2024 under the pending legislation.
Legal Marijuana hits the retail stores in next 6 months in New Jersey
According to the new bill, it would be legal to possess marijuana up to an ounce as soon as the bill is enacted. However, it would take enough time for the legal marketplace to set up. An estimated time frame of six months is in order for the retail locations to be open for selling marijuana since the commission is yet to set the guidelines.
Medical marijuana facilities will be cleared to start offering marijuana for recreational purposes soon after the bill is passed, but they are required to keep sufficient products for severe patients first.