On May 15, a New Jersey senator introduced a bill to legalize cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the bill’s primary sponsor, was instrumental in drafting the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Prohibitive laws against cannabis are falling like dominoes from state to state and New Jersey is the latest state to introduce a recreational cannabis bill.
House Bill 110 would immediately decriminalize up to 50 grams of cannabis and limit fines to $100 until the legislation is ready. The bill would allow adults to possess up to one once of cannabis, 16 ounces of cannabis-infused solids, 72 liquid ounces of cannabis-infused liquids and seven grams of concentrate. Home cultivation would be explicitly forbidden. The bill would establish a Division of Marijuana Enforcement which would oversee the state’s medical cannabis program. The legislation would impose a sales tax on cannabis businesses that would begin at seven percent and climb to 25 percent over the course of five years. The tax scale was designed to encourage new businesses to operate.
“The national trend is toward legalization,” Scutari said. “It’s absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway.”
On September 14, 2016 Gov. Chris Christie signed Assembly Bill No. 457 which became the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. However, Gov. Christie has a long history of opposing legalization efforts. He now spearheads the White House commission to examine America’s opioid crisis, a role that was met with fierce criticism. According to a poll by Morning Consult, Christie’s approval rating hovers around 25 percent making him least popular governor in America. Christie terms out in January and according to NBC News, he is rumored to become “drug czar” under the Trump Administration.
The final legislation is expected to be ready within a year. Scutari believes the bill would generate at least $300 million in tax revenue for New Jersey.