New Jersey is quickly looking more like it will be the second state to legalize cannabis through legislature. Since Phil Murphy was elected Governor of New Jersey, he has been asking the legislature to bring him a bill to legalize cannabis – and a couple of senators have taken the initiative to finally deliver exactly that.
Introduced last Thursday by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Nicholas Scutari, the bill would legalize cannabis and allow adults 21 and older to buy, consume and possess up to an ounce of cannabis.
“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,” Scutari said. “Law-abiding adults will be able to partake legally and safely knowing exactly what they’re ingesting.”
The bill is a combination of efforts by both Senators, and it not only addresses recreational cannabis, but it expands on the state’s current medical marijuana law as well. It would require that a certain number of medicinal dispensaries open their doors alongside the new recreational market, and it would allow any healthcare provider permitted to write prescriptions to recommend medical cannabis.
The hope is that expanding the number of doctors who can make the recommendation would greatly increase the number of patients who can access medical marijuana – which has been slow to grow in recent years under former governor Chris Christie. It would also slowly phase out the current 7 percent sales tax on medical cannabis.
If passed, the bill would allow individual municipalities to ban the sales of recreational cannabis – but if they would choose to do so, they need to act quickly. After 180 days, that option will no longer be available. It would also specifically allow dispensaries to create a separate “retail marijuana consumption area” on the premises – something Alaska scrapped, and other states have been hesitant to allow.
Lastly, the law eliminates the possibility of using a positive drug test to deny a person medical care, housing or a job “unless failing to do so would put the school, employer, or landlord in violation of federal law or cause it to lose a federal contract or funding.”
Overall, it appears to be a fairly well-rounded plan to legalize cannabis and transition from prohibition to regulation. Considering New Jersey has been looking at legalization for some time now, and they finally have a Governor who is ready to move forward with such a plan, there is a good chance this bill may be pushed through quickly, putting another state on the list of those who have ended cannabis prohibition.