New Jersey has entered unfamiliar territory. Current Gov. Chris Christie has made his opposition clear, but a state senator tabled a new recreational marijuana bill in May amidst uncertainty over who will be the next governor of the state. Questions remain as to how it will play out moving forward.
In a state where the governor is vehemently opposed to legalization, many people were surprised when a new recreational marijuana bill was introduced by Senator Nicholas Scutari (D) in May. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’re honored to have been part of this movement, meeting with both Scutari and president of the Senate Stephen Sweeney (D) last October to show them how a legal, safe, and regulated industry has greatly benefited Colorado.
The plan for the new bill includes waiting for Gov. Chris Christie to exit the office in January 2018. During his Ask the Governor radio program last November, Christie made his stance on legalizing marijuana very clear.
“There is nothing we spend in government that is important enough to allow me to willfully poison our children. That’s blood money,” he said, regarding to the estimated $300 million in tax revenue the industry could potentially generate.
Meanwhile, 58 per cent of respondents to a Rutgers University-Eagleton Institute poll support the legalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and over, showing the governor is out of step with constituents.
New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana History
Back in 2010, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed and signed by then-governor Jon Corzine (D) on his last day in office. With Christie on board the very next day, things have been anything but easy for doctors and their patients. The state registry didn’t come online until August 2012 and even today, only five of six permitted treatment centers are up and running.
Unlike other medical marijuana programs, New Jersey’s is unusually strict in several areas, such as requiring patients to be reassessed by their physician for 30, 60, or 90-day certifications. As for qualifying conditions, PTSD wasn’t added and signed into law by Christie until last year. Now in 2017, the state Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel has finally recommended additional conditions, including migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic pain related to arthritis, sciatica, diabetes, and more.
“Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana will increase public safety, improve our criminal justice system, enhance racial justice, protect young people, save resources, bolster public health, and generate revenue.”
Due Diligence Despite Christie in Office
While Scutari’s original 2014 bill to legalize recreational marijuana didn’t get off the ground, he and other supporters have been busy with Christie in office.
A 2016 report by the New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform found that legalization would generate approximately $1.2 billion in direct sales and $300 million each year once a graduated tax increase was fully implemented.
“Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana will increase public safety, improve our criminal justice system, enhance racial justice, protect young people, save resources, bolster public health, and generate revenue,” the report also stated.
Later in the year, Scutari led a group of legislators from both parties on a Colorado fact-finding mission to see how the cannabis industry is currently operating in the state. During their visit, the delegation met with Medicine Man Technologies’ senior consultants Carrie Roberts and Matt Best for a tour of our facility and discussion of both the benefits we’ve achieved and challenges we still face.
“I was on board before we went, but I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It’s safe, it’s well-managed. Colorado has done an amazing job,” Sweeney commented after the trip.
Even attendee, Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who has yet to decide on which way he would vote, said, “There’s very little downside.”
The New Garden State Recreational Marijuana Bill
With Christie’s term ending and the numerous benefits of legalizing adult-use marijuana being brought to light, things are looking up for Scutari’s bill, and we’re hopeful that it will be passed, despite a few flaws.
Let’s look at what the measure would entail for New Jersey:
- Possession of up to 50 grams would first be decriminalized (with a maximum fine of $100) while the full program gets up and running.
- Legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over in the following forms and quantities: one ounce of marijuana, seven grams of concentrate, 16 ounces of infused products in solid form, and 72 ounces in liquid form.
- Establishment of the Division of Marijuana Enforcement within the state Department of Law and Public Safety. Within a year, the group will be responsible for implementing new regulations, as well as helming licensing programs for growers and distributors.
- Gradually increased taxation on sales: seven per cent in year one, 10 per cent the next, followed by five per cent increases until a final rate of 25 per cent is reached.
- Flexibility for local governments to forbid or strictly regulate marijuana businesses.
- Prohibition of growing marijuana in your own home.
As you can see, the last two are a bit troubling and out of step with other states where adult use is legal, but we’ll see how this develops once the bill progresses through the legislature.
Who Will Be the Next Governor of New Jersey?
This is the $300 million question and the final piece of the puzzle, so let’s look at the candidates. Democrats Phil Murphy (front-runner) and Jim Johnson support legalization, while John Wisniewski wants marijuana decriminalized and a legal framework developed for the market. Senator Ray Lesniak, another Democrat, also backs decriminalization but is not on board with full legalization.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican front-runner and current Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is against recreational legalization but wants to make it easier for patients to access medical marijuana. She’s also open to exploring decriminalization. Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who voted against expanding medical use, only supports decriminalization for offenses involving small amounts of marijuana. Finally, there’s Steven Rogers, who is in favor of medical marijuana but opposed to recreational.
With the 2017 gubernatorial election just around the corner in New Jersey, the team at Medicine Man Technologies is hoping to see voters make the right choice for the state’s economy and its citizens. Electing a supportive governor and passing this bill will certainly usher in a new era of opportunity for both those involved in the marijuana industry, as well as sustain numerous social programs. We’ll be sure to give you an update as the race for Christie’s office heats up over the coming months.
Looking to launch a legal enterprise if New Jersey passes recreational marijuana? Our experts are here to help. We’ll guide you through each step and help you get a running start at success.
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