By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Recreational marijuana could be legal in New Jersey as early as January.
While lawmakers failed to act in a timely manner to get legislation through before the end of 2018, a bill to legalize recreational marijuana was voted out of a joint committee in the state legislature in late November – the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 7-4 with two abstentions while the Assembly Budget Committee voted 7-3 with one abstention.
The bill – SB 2703—would legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older. It would also create a state system to oversee the operations of a new industry.
Union Democratic Sen. Nick Scutari led the applause for the momentum of the bill.
“We moved it along quite well,” Scutari said, noting that Gov. Phil Murphy has exhibited a “willingness to sign a legalization bill…”
Scutari was far from the only celebrant. Roseanne Scotti, the director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey proclaimed that history was made with the passage of the bill and others contended that legalizing marijuana would be good for the state.
“When you look at the data, legalizing cannabis has an overwhelming net positive on the community. Huge spike in tax revenue, lower opiate deaths, big boosts in jobs and business opportunities, and safe access to a plant that benefits millions of people,” Max Simon, CEO of Green Flower, told NNPA Newswire.
“It’s exciting to see New Jersey join the rest of the country in taking important steps forward to legalize marijuana,” Simon said.
Serge Chistov, financial partner of Honest Marijuana Company said the great part about marijuana legalization in New Jersey is that officials are looking to instantly eliminate the problem that the rest of the states are having, as far as creating a state-backed banking environment.
“I am not sure how far they are into the process and if it is going to happen, but it seems to me that New Jersey is looking to learn from the mistakes that are in the other states and instead have a supportive environment for the participants in the market,” Chistov said. “If that is the direction they are going to go in, we love the sound of it,” he said.
Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc., said unprecedented support for marijuana was gained in 2018.
“Besides the many health and wellness benefits of the plant that many people are just now discovering, we’ve been able to see great state taxes benefits from it as well,” Titus said.
“In New Jersey, it’s estimated that even though the state could have the lowest taxes on recreational marijuana in the country, it could still collect a little over $210 million in taxes next year. As a company, we are excited at the expanded access and hope that this progress will help forward federal legalization within the next few years,” he said.
Attorney Edward T. Fisher, who is a member in Griesing Law’s Commercial Litigation and Corporate Transactions and Compliance Practice Groups, said as the New Jersey legislature considers the legalization of recreational marijuana, a host of interesting legal issues emerges.
On the supply side, there will be many new marijuana growers and dispensaries in addition to those already involved in the medical marijuana industry, Fisher said.
“These businesses will need to navigate through a morass of rules and regulations concerning the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.
“Where will these growers and dispensaries be located, and how they handle local/municipality pushback?
“Since marijuana is still illegal federally, and thus banking, with respect to the proceeds generated, is extremely difficult, how will the new businesses handle revenue and pay employees? These businesses will need experienced counsel to help them navigate these issues,” Fisher said.
On the employment side, Fisher said the questions include what do employers do, if anything, once marijuana is legal recreationally? Should they revise their workplace policies? What about their policy of drug testing employees? Will the new legislation offer any protection from discrimination or retaliation to employees who use marijuana recreationally outside of work?
“The legalization of recreational marijuana will bring a host of changes to New Jersey businesses. Consultation with experienced counsel is highly recommended during these new and changing times,” Fisher said.