By Patrick McKnight
New Jersey cannabis reform advocates began 2018 with high hopes. Newly elected Governor
Murphy pledged to legalize the recreational use of cannabis within his first 100 days. Several
pieces of legislation were introduced in the State House but stalled over the summer due to
debates over the budget. The Murphy administration was able to loosen restrictions on medical
cannabis and order a temporary halt to cannabis-related prosecutions, but the 100 day window
came and went without legislative action.
Now legislators have resumed work on comprehensive reform bills and want a vote by the end of September. While many of the details still need to be ironed out, several provisions of the new proposal are being discussed publicly. These include the possibility of delivery for both medical and recreational cannabis, expungement of prior convictions, removing a previously proposed cap on the number of licenses, the creation of a cannabis policy advisory commission, micro-licenses for small businesses, and allocating an unknown percentage of licenses for minorities, women, and communities with high unemployment.
One of the major unknowns remains the tax rate on recreational cannabis sales. Previous proposals ranged between 15% and 25% and the possibility of local municipalities levying and additional 2%. The latest bills would likely remove sales tax from medical cannabis.
“Everything is a guessing game because leadership still has to get the votes,” said Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen, D-Somerset, who has helped draft this latest bill. “There are a lot of moving parts. It’s like an erector set.”
State lawmakers say they want to finalize two separate cannabis bills, one for medical and one for adult recreational use. They plan to submit these to the Murphy administration for feedback before introducing them for a vote in the State House. After months of setbacks a vote could now be coming within a few weeks. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, previously indicated he wants to take action by the end of September.