A bill to implement the public referendum legalizing adult-use marijuana in the Garden State was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-22), would create the organizational and regulatory systems required to oversee operations of the cannabis industry in New Jersey.
“By implementing a regulated system that allows people age 21 and over to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use we will bring marijuana out of the underground market where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades,” said Scutari.
Organizing Tax Avenues for ‘Impact Zones’
Under the bill (S-21), 70% of sales tax revenue and 100% of “Social Equity Excise Fees” on cultivators would be allocated to aid “impact zones.” These zones would be defined as the communities hurt most by existing drug laws.
The remaining 30% of revenue garnered from the taxes would be used to fund the regulatory commission assigned to overseeing the cannabis trade in New Jersey, as well state, county, and municipal law enforcement training and equipment for Drug Recognition Experts.
“We will now be able to move forward to correct social and legal injustices that have had a discriminatory impact on communities of color at the same time that marijuana is regulated and made legal for adults,” said Sweeney. “This represents a significant change in public policy that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy.”
Developing a New Industry
Sweeney opined the new cannabis industry in New Jersey could create about 43,000 jobs in the state, and it would represent the largest state in the Northeast to legalize recreational use of the drug.
Under the law, municipalities would be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their communities. Those that allowed them would be allowed to collect a 2% tax and retain revenue.
The bill features a variety of social justice provisions, including the removal of criminal penalties for possession as well as business incentives for minorities, women, and disabled veterans to participate in the industry.