Despite missing several previous deadlines and struggling with proper wording for marijuana legalization measures, it appears as if New Jersey is close to the goal, and advocates are excited.
The Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Bill will be considered by the full Senate and Assembly in the near future.
On Nov. 26, a panel from the Senate approved the bill 7 to 4, with two abstentions. Meanwhile, the panel in the Assembly approved the bill with a vote of 7 to 3 with one abstention.
In an interesting twist, Gov. Phil Murphy, who has been pushing for this type of legislation by the end of the year, has not read through the 166-page bill, with its 67,583 words and various stipulations. The stipulations include allowing adults over the age of 21 to purchase, possess and even have marijuana delivered to their homes, among many other matters.
The Senate and Assembly meet again Dec. 17, although some skeptics say the approval of this bill may not happen until January, thereby missing the most recent deadline set by Gov. Murphy for legalization.
The Bill includes permission for the creation of consumption lounges, where food can be sold and marijuana can be enjoyed. Meanwhile, it outlines a unique feature not yet addressed in other states: home delivery of marijuana to adults over age 21 who order and purchase the drug.
Delivery drivers will have to be 18 and older and will not be permitted to drive vehicles that are marked to show they are carrying marijuana. They also will not be permitted to leave the engine running while they are out for a delivery. Licensed dispensaries and micro-business retailers will be in charge of this business add-on.
The bill clearly allows for banning marijuana, consumption lounges and businesses in any of the state’s 585 municipalities. Also, residences owned by landlords will be allowed to determine whether marijuana can be used there – hence the addition of consumption lounges to provide a location for people who live in apartment buildings to go where they can legally consume marijuana.
The tax rate for New Jersey will be 12% on legally purchased marijuana products, while fines starting at $25 will be levied against anyone caught purchasing marijuana from the black market.
The bill also stipulates 25% of licenses will go to minorities, allowing them to create micro-businesses within the state and help address some of the issues caused by marijuana crimes and charges.
Officials note the bill is not perfect, but that typically legislation is not stalled because it lacks perfection.
Two other bills were approved by panels on the same day; one that covers expanding the current medical marijuana program within the state and another that focuses on creating a system to help expunge the records of individuals with low-level cannabis convictions. This is also addressed in the Cannabis Regulatory Bill.