With ten states and Washington D.C., already passing laws to legalize cannabis for all adults, the cannabis community is continuing down its path of ending prohibition state by state. The first places to legalize, such as Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Alaska, and our nation’s capital, all did so by placing marijuana measures on the ballot, taking the issue directly to the voters. This tactic jumpstarted the legalization movement as the people have been ahead of politicians. Finally, we are starting to see some legislatures move forward on the issue, starting with Vermont. After New Jersey legislators just passed a legalization bill out of committee, the Garden State looks like a good bet to be the next state to end cannabis prohibition.
Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on legalizing cannabis, so it is likely that he’ll sign a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana if a bill passes out of both chambers of the New Jersey Assembly. While noncommittal on whether he’ll support the current proposal being debated, it seems unlikely that Gov. Murphy would veto the bill unless something egregious somehow makes it into the language. NJ.com reported on the legalization measure that passed out of committees in both the state House and Senate:
The legal weed bill, which was unveiled last week, would legalize the possession and personal use of one ounce or less of marijuana for people at least 21 years old, and create, regulate and impose a 12 percent tax on commercial marijuana industry in the state. An extra 2 percent excise tax could be raised for towns which host cannabis businesses.
The legislation also aims to speed up the expungement process for people who have prior arrests and convictions for possession or distributing small quantities of marijuana. Within six months of the law’s enactment, the Administrative Office of the Courts must create an electronic filing system for expedited expungements, a concept that has been the linchpin of social justice debate this year.
But in the end, final passage of the legal weed bill may well come down to the balance of social justice and money. Houenou and other advocates, along with several key lawmakers, have said they wouldn’t support the bill if its social justice elements, like expungements and minority participation in a future industry, were too weak.
On the other hand, Murphy has indicated he might not support a bill unless it had what he concerns an acceptable tax rate. Murphy wants 25 percent, the new bill calls for a 12 percent tax.
As NJ.com notes, the state lawmakers just have one day left on the 2018 legislative calendar, so it looks like legalization may have to wait until 2019. Hopefully, social justice elements are included as people of color and poor people, in general, have suffered greatly under the failed and harmful policy of marijuana prohibition. And surely, Governor Murphy won’t let the tax rate interfere with following through with his campaign promise to end cannabis prohibition. New Jersey legalizing will jumpstart New York and other states to move forward with similar provisions as the United States gets closer to ending federal prohibition once and for all.
To learn the latest about opportunities in California, across the U.S., and around the world, join top investors, entrepreneurs, and advocates at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 7-8, 2019. The event is expected to sell out, so purchase your early-bird tickets by January 18th to secure your spot and save some money. After San Francisco, the ICBC is heading to Europe to team up with Spannabis for an event in Barcelona on March 14th before returning to Berlin, Germany, from March 31st to April 2nd for the third straight year. Stay tuned for more exciting destinations to be announced soon.