Gov.-elect Phil Murphy received significant support this week for his goal to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days of office.
Two assembly bills and one in the senate that were reintroduced in the Legislature vary in scope — they range from creating a regulated cannabis marketplace to simply legalizing possession of marijuana — but experts say the bills are a good starting point for Murphy if he wants to move quickly on legalization.
A bill introduced by Assemblyman Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, has created the most buzz, according to experts following the issue. The bill would create a tax structure for cannabis sales, set up licensing guidelines and create a regulatory body called the Division of Marijuana Enforcement that would be created by the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Although the majority of New Jerseyans support marijuana legalization, some believe it may not come as quickly as within the first 100 days.
“It’s an aggressive goal, it’s an optimistic goal,” said Daniel McKillop, counsel at the law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck in Lyndhurst. “I would be surprised, given Murphy’s statements, if it took longer than the first six months of 2018.”
McKillop said Scutari’s bill and one introduced by Sen. Reed Gusciora, D-Trenton, appear to have the most support. Both would take steps to create a regulated marketplace for cannabis.
A bill from Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris Plains, doesn’t address regulation concerns, but would legalize the possession of marijuana in New Jersey.
“There’s nothing inconsistent in [Carroll’s] bill that would fly in the face of a regulated market,” said Charles Gormally, co-chair for the Cannabis Law Practice Group at Brach Eichler, based in Roseland.