On December 16, 2019, supermajorities in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly approved a resolution that will refer to voters the question of legalizing marijuana for adults’ use. While MPP strongly preferred a 147-page bill, which included important provisions for equity and would have taken effect sooner, the necessary Senate votes were unfortunately not there for that approach, and the voter referral appeared to be the only path to legalize cannabis in New Jersey.
The proposed constitutional amendment (SCR 183) is narrow in focus, as is required by New Jersey law, and seems to require implementing legislation. If approved by New Jersey voters on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, the measure would:
legalize regulated cannabis for adults 21 and older while keeping unregulated cannabis illegal;
charge the legislature with authorizing the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or a successor agency, to regulate legal cannabis;
limit state taxes on retail sales to the sales tax rate, which is currently 6.625%; and
allow municipal retail taxes of up to 2%.
Meanwhile, other reforms are moving forward. Also on December 16, 2019, the legislature approved a “clean slate” expungement bill, to allow those with cannabis and other convictions to more easily remove from public view the scarlet letter that derails job and housing prospects. Gov. Murphy signed the bill into law two days later. Among other improvements, S.4151 requires the courts — with help from an expert task force — to develop and implement an automatic sealing process for most marijuana offenses.
MPP and allied organizations are also urging the legislature to decriminalize marijuana in the short term. In New Jersey, simple possession of marijuana is still punishable by up to six months in jail. As data complied by the ACLU-NJ shows, 94 individuals are arrested every day for marijuana in New Jersey. Unless the legislature acts, more than 30,000 individuals will face traumatic arrests and prosecutions while voters wait for Election Day. Urge your legislators to support decriminalization and to push for swift, equitable implementation.
Medical cannabis program expanded
On June 2, 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy signed A20, also known as Jake’s Law — named after Jake Honig, a pediatric patient who used medical marijuana during his battle with cancer. The law institutes many much needed reforms to the medical marijuana program, including:
expanding qualifying conditions, including by adding chronic pain;
providing anti-discrimination protections, including related to education, rental housing, professional licensing, and employment;
expanding access, including by increasing the number of cultivators, retailers, and manufacturers; and
allowing home delivery.
A more detailed summary of the changes can be found here.