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Dem's Legislature-backed budget: $0 from recreational cannabis

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Of the $32.6 billion budget proposed $0 would come from recreational cannabis.
Of the $32.6 billion budget proposed $0 would come from recreational cannabis. - ()

State lawmakers are revising how much the state would earn from the taxation of recreational marijuana in the fiscal 2019 budget – nothing.

They’ve penciled in $60 million in state revenue from taxes on medical marijuana, according to Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District.

Scutari, who advocated for the recent expansion of the medical marijuana program, said the $0 revenue projected from recreational cannabis simply acknowledges that such uses is currently illegal – regardless of anyone’s future aims.

“Recreational is not in place yet, so there can’t be a score on it,” Scutari said Tuesday. “I think [the state] had originally scored recreation at a certain level, and you can’t score something on recreational for budget process until it’s in law, and it’s not a law yet.”

The $60 million is part of the $32.6 billion spending plan, backed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, unveiled Monday afternoon in a joint Senate-Assembly press conference.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, vowed to push ahead with getting a budget on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk by the end of the week.

But Murphy, that same day, said he would veto their budget, citing opposition to “one-shot revenues” such as the $150 million from the tax amnesty program, and “two-shot revenues” such as the $805 million from the Corporate Business Tax.

Murphy also said he would be opposed to a budget which lacked a millionaire's tax and increase of the sales back from 6.6 percent to 7 percent.

In March, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a budget that called for $80 million from the taxation of recreational cannabis and the expanded medicinal marijuana program, but the state treasury last month lowered that projection to $69 million from both recreational and medicinal cannabis.

Scutari has tacked his name onto a variety of bills aimed at marijuana decriminalization and the regulation and taxation of medicinal and recreational cannabis, but it’s uncertain which, if any, would pass.

He said on Tuesday morning that he’d still try and push forward an ambitious bill, which Sweeney also sponsored, Senate Bill 2703, to combine medicinal and recreational legislation.

It’s considered a long shot to make it out of the Legislature, and Scutari said it would be tough to see the law signed by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

On Monday, the state Department of Health, which currently oversees the medicinal marijuana programs, unveiled a slate of regulations aimed at eliminating red tape.

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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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