New Jersey lawmakers give blessing to marijuana marketplace

New Jersey lawmakers have passed a measure setting up a recreational marijuana marketplace.  Their action Thursday sends the legislation to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. He is expected to sign the bill but it is unclear when.

The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the bill during remote sessions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November allowing for recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The amendment takes effect Jan. 1.

The legislation sets out a timetable that could see recreational cannabis available in New Jersey in about six months.

The 200-plus-page legislation is a thicket of technical detail that is being closely watched by lobbyists and businesses interested in opening shop in New Jersey.

For consumers, the legislation means cannabis will be subject to the state’s 6.625% sales tax, with 70% of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents were likelier —- up to three times as much — to face marijuana charges than white residents.

Towns will also have the option to levy a tax of up to 2%.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be able to levy an excise tax, the amount of which will depend on the cost per ounce of cannabis. There will be four levels of tax under the bill, so if cannabis is $350 or more, the tax per ounce will be $10. That rises to $60 per ounce if the retail price of the product is less than $250.

Another part of the bill that resulted from lawmaker negotiations is a cap on the number of licenses for cultivators. They’ll be set at 37 for two years. The state Senate was pushing for no limits, but the Assembly wanted the caps.

Lawmakers are also considering a bill Thursday to decriminalize marijuana, a measure made necessary because the state’s laws make possession a crime, despite the voter-approved amendment.

Among other things, that measure would permit carrying up to 6 ounces of cannabis.


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