November 28, 2018, New Jersey
Committees from both New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly have started a public hearing this week to discuss and debate legalizing recreational marijuana. The legislative committees are going to get feedback on the Marijuana Legalization Act—a draft paving the way for a multibillion-dollar industry in the state. The given bill also calls for expunging low-level cannabis convictions. This public hearing has become possible after months of on-camera discussions over the bill.
While the fate of the bill will be known in the coming days, it is important to mention here that there are some major differences between lawmakers over the objectives of the bill. For instance, some are of the opinion that legalization is primarily motivated by economic agenda and has nothing to do with the provision of social justice.
On the other hand, many lawmakers, including Gov. Murphy insist that in comparison to decriminalization, legalization is more effective in curbing the deep-rooted racial disproportion from the criminal justice system.
One can’t deny that economics is a critical element when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. The issue has taken a central stage in New Jersey. The draft in question calls for imposing a 12 percent general sales tax across the industry and gives a leeway to towns for imposing up to 2 percent excise tax. Some lawmakers have also shown their concern about public safety due to some unwanted repercussions of legalization, such as unregulated access, an uptick in crimes, and impaired driving. Advocates of the measure answer these reservations by saying that alcohol and regulated substances (opioid etc.) are already posing greater public safety risks.
Senate Bill S2703 is probably the country’s most indulgent cannabis legalization proposal as far as consumers are concerned. According to the provisions, citizens aged 21 and above will be allowed to buy, possess and use up to an ounce of flowers. The provision of personal use has room for other products as well. Adults will be allowed to possess up to 7 gram of marijuana concentrates, one pound of edibles and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids. The measure will also allow the domestic cultivation of six cannabis plants for personal use.
The provision where New Jersey’s legalization draft beats other statewide measures is the permission for opening public sites for cannabis consumption. The bill allows retail stores to have cannabis lounges for public consumption. Cannabis delivery services will also be part of retail operations.
Another stipulation of the bill is also commendable for establishing social and economic equity. The bill sets aside 10 percent of cannabis licenses for micro-businesses. Moreover, it ensures that the state regulators will give preference to applicants from the communities who have been previously persecuted by law enforcement agencies.
If passed with all the given provisions, SB 2703 will change the cannabis landscape of the entire country. The provisions of the bill are so conclusive that they address nearly every social and economic issue associated with cannabis.