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Murphy neutral for now on new marijuana bills

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With lawmakers now having introduced varying marijuana legalization proposals, Gov. Phil Murphy was noncommittal on which, if either, he might support.

Senate Bill 2703, proposed by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District, combines medical and recreational legislation. It is considered a long shot to make it out of the Legislature.

Scutari and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, also unveiled another measure, Senate Bill 2702, that would allow anyone 21 and over to buy, use, possess and transport up to an ounce of marijuana.

“If [legislation] comes to us in June and it’s right, I’m all for that,” Murphy said Friday in New Brunswick at an event spotlighting apprenticeships. “If it’s the right bill on either medical or adult-use recreation, we’re ready to go.”

The governor has said he wants New Jersey to move forward with legalizing cannabis, and has proposed adding $60 million from marijuana revenue into the 2019 state budget.

Murphy said he supports legalizing marijuana, records expungement and expanding the medicinal program, but stopped short of saying he’d support the bills that have been introduced.

“These two pieces of legislation we introduced represent a concerted effort to put all the options on the table in an efficient, comprehensive manner,” Scutari said in a statement. “The legislation to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use would eliminate the draconian laws and penalties currently in place and improve social justice issues in urban areas. Law-abiding adults will be able to partake legally and safely knowing exactly what they’re ingesting.”

Scutari’s combination measure calls for legalizing recreational cannabis, expanding the medicinal marijuana program and offering a route for records expungement. It allows for the opening of 98 additional medicinal marijuana dispensaries and 120 for recreational sales.

The legislation also includes some of Scutari’s prior proposals to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by broadening who as a patient would have access to medicinal cannabis, loosen the requirements for alternative treatment centers and increase the quantity of marijuana made available to patients.

Under S2702, anyone previously convicted of possession of up to 50 grams, under the bill, could apply to have their records expunged.

Towns would have a 180-day window to enact their own restrictions or they would have to wait five years for the chance to do so again.

The legislation would enact a 10 percent tax rate on marijuana sales for the first year after the bill passes. That would rise to 15 percent the following year, 20 percent in the third and 25 percent for the fourth year and beyond. Taxes would not be levied on the sale of medicinal marijuana.

Also in the measure the establishment of a Division of Marijuana Enforcement within the Department of Treasury, which would oversee and regulate marijuana-related activities in the state. 

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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Tom Micai June 16, 2018 9:43 am

NJ Legislators thinking about legalizing a drug in an era of a drug crisis so we get more car accidents, higher insurance rates, financing drug rehab programs out of good people's pockets and so on. Brilliant!