legal nj cannabis

While the Judiciary and Budget Committees in both chambers have passed legal NJ cannabis bills, they have differences that need to be reconciled before the bill can be passaged and signed into law.

Thus, while the legislature initially scheduled the final vote for tomorrow, it has since been postponed.

Decriminalization hit a similar snag when an amendment to lessen magic mushrooms possession charges was added to the bill, which passed the State Senate much to the surprise of many.

It has become apparent that legal NJ cannabis sponsor Nick Scutari (D-Union) introduced the magic mushrooms ostensibly to help people. But the nature of how it has become a poison bill makes one suspect his motives. Especially since magic mushrooms have not been a part of the decriminalization conversation as it has progressed over the last year or so.

They will most likely have to find a way to remove that. We’ll have to watch to come out of the smoke-filled back room. It reminds me of Hamilton’s “The Room Where it Happens.”

One of the big issues stopping the passage of legal NJ cannabis is the debate around dedicating the money raised to address harms done by the War on Drugs. While the Senate bill says the money should go there, they do not mandate it. The funds still need to be fought to be dedicated in the next fight for the state budget. The Assembly bill does not say where the money should go.

Advocates noted this in the hearings and wanted the language changed from “may” to “shall” concerning the budget funding.

Cultivation Caps

Another big issue was cultivation caps, where the NJ Senate said there should be none while the Assembly limited them to 38.

There is universal agreement that the fundamental flaw of the New Jersey medical marijuana program has been a great lack of supply. The continuing hindrance of increasing supply will lead to the continuation of the outrageous prices for sub-par cannabis in New Jersey that makes all the other strides to progress look terrible, especially the growth of patients in the program.

Assistant Commissioner Jeff Brown admitted as much at a virtual conference.

The taxes on cannabis continue to be a sticking point between those who want to keep it low to ensure a viable market and those who want money for social programs and the budget in general.

Many advocates called for eliminating caps to improve legal NJ cannabis in New Jersey in the Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing.

“There is a consensus among cannabis industry experts that an aggregate tax rate of 20 percent or less is needed to be competitive with the illicit market. The way the legislation currently reads, it could be interpreted as permitting a 60 percent tax. That’s nuts. The current form of this legislation would be a gift to an unregulated and illicit marketplace that we will come to regret,” said State Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth).

Workplace Safety

The other big issue that has come up is that workers in blue-collar jobs in critical industries must always be sober.

While the Senate has a more progressive policy on cap limits and dedication of taxes, the Assembly bill that there should be certified experts to examine the suspected and that random drug testing should stop. However, the Senate version does not call for the end of random drug tests with the coming of legal NJ cannabis.

One idea that seems especially popular is to give the cannabis tax revenue to public schools.

State Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) introduced legislation to create the New Jersey Community Learning Program to support the provision of comprehensive extended learning time programs in areas most impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. The programs would be funded by revenue collected from the sale of recreational cannabis.

 “The criminalization of cannabis has had a severe, generational impact on the well-being of Black and Brown communities around the state,” said Ruiz.

Jersey City is also looking to give their cannabis revenue to schools under a plan backed by Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro and Ward E Councilman James Solomon.

“It is only right that the revenue generated from legalization should be funneled back into those very neighborhoods that were disenfranchised by marijuana prohibition and its discriminatory enforcement,” Ruiz said.

Schools are a specific problem that seems in perpetual need of vast sums of money. Under her bill, S-3213, schools in impact zones would be eligible to receive funding.

However, there are many more programs that need funding from cannabis revenue.

“By confronting the disparities within our education system, we can invest in meaningful programming to address them and begin to shrink the achievement gap plaguing our state,” Ruiz said.

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