Legislators in the state of New Jersey have been working diligently to draft a cannabis legalization bill that would cover just about any issue a state with legal marijuana could potentially come across, in hopes that it can be passed before the end of 2018. Lawmakers have been drafting legislation to legalize cannabis in the Garden State, but former Governor Chris Christie was barely willing to expand medical marijuana laws and was openly against legalizing cannabis – leaving prior bills to gather dust.
With a new and much more cannabis-friendly governor in office, New Jersey lawmakers are acting quickly to put a bill on Governor Murphy’s desk. Just this week Scott Rudder, head of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, announced to a crowd of more than a hundred people that the bill is “98 percent” complete. They are currently awaiting review and feedback from the governor before putting the bill up for a vote, likely to ensure quick passage once it is complete.
The bill covers concerns that have been raised in other states, specifically addressing home delivery of cannabis and social consumption lounges. However, a lot of the regulations specific to running businesses in the industry will be left up to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. It will also set aside 25 percent of all business licenses specifically for women, minorities and veterans.
New Jersey’s legalization bill also addresses issues like home growing – which would not be allowed as the bill is written now – expungement of criminal records, and of course, taxes. Taxes is a big part of the remaining “2 percent” of the bill that remains incomplete. Right now, the bill calls for a 10 percent tax on cannabis – which would be the lowest tax on legal cannabis in the U.S. Unfortunately, there is a chance this will be increased before the final draft of the bill.
“I continue to believe it’s this year,” Governor Murphy said. “Doing it is important but doing it right is more important and that’s going to be key.”
While Governor Murphy is confident that legislature can pass a cannabis legalization bill this fall, there is a chance that it could take until early 2019. Even if the bill does pass before the end of 2018, it would still be close to a year (or longer) before legal cannabis was available for retail purchase.
From the passage of the bill, regulators would have 180 days to adopt rules for the program, 20 days to start accepting applications for licenses, and another 30 days to start approving or denying applications. If all goes well, legal cannabis could be on sale for adults 21 and older in New Jersey as early as the fall of 2019.