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Scutari unveils recreational marijuana legislation

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In light of the eight different states that have approved the use of recreational marijuana and more than 60 percent of people in the country favoring legalization, state Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari has announced he will introduce new legislation to legalize personal use of small amounts of marijuana in New Jersey for people 21 years of age and older.

“The drug laws in this country prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana have failed. It is time to end the detrimental effect these archaic laws are having on our residents and our state,” Scutari (D-Linden) said. This bill will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades.”

In the bill, Scutari noted that expenditure of enforcement of current marijuana laws cost the state $127 million annually, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and that recreational marijuana would strike a blow to criminal profits from illegal sales. Scutari also noted that as it stands, African-Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for possession than Caucasians, despite similar rates of use.

“The prohibition of marijuana has been problematic on so many levels,” Scutari said. “New Jersey cannot afford to sacrifice its public safety and residents’ civil rights by continuing its ineffective and wasteful marijuana enforcement policies. Other states’ programs are working well, creating jobs and generating tax revenue, and have not seen the doom-and-gloom scenarios once predicted.”

The bill would:

  • Create a program that provides the licensure of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale and retail facilities
  • Allow for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana infused product in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid for and seven grams of concentrate.
  • Prohibit the growing of marijuana plants at home and consumption of marijuana openly or in a public place.
  • Create the Division of Marijuana Enforcement in the Department of Law and Public Safety, which would regulate the recreational program from licensing agreements, to childproofing of products. The division would also be tasked with creating licensing goals for New Jersey residents and minorities.
  • Decriminalize possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana upon enactment but before implementation.
  • Establish an escalating tax rate schedule so that early participation and the undermining of the illegal market is encouraged. The rate would start at 7 percent and increase to 25 percent in five years.

“Regulating the sale and consumption of marijuana in New Jersey will not only benefit the state financially, but will mean a safer and more responsible way of treating this drug and a more humane way of treating our residents.” Scutari said.

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Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin covers real estate. A native of El Salvador, Mario is bilingual in English and Spanish. He graduated from Penn State University and worked in Pennsylvania before moving to New Jersey. His email is mariom@njbiz.com.

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Big Dom May 17, 2017 7:40 am

With no grow, I'll vote no!