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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: March 22, 2019
Legal framework surrounding marijuana - Leckerman Law, LLC

Legal weed is a possibility for New Jersey this year. While the state currently allows medicinal use of cannabis for residents with a prescription, the legalization of recreational use and possession would change the game in a major way. Currently, there are only six medical marijuana dispensaries in all of New Jersey. If legal recreational weed becomes a reality, that number could grow exponentially.

Cannabis could be delivered to users’ doorsteps, like a hot and ready pizza. Hotels and casinos would be allowed to dedicate up to 20% of their available space to creating areas for guests to use legal weed. Those cities who chose not to opt out of legalization would have the option to tax cannabis products up to 3%, resulting in major financial gains.

After two long years of bargains and debates, only 10 more votes are needed between the Senate and the Assembly for the Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act to pass. Remaining details, like how many dispensaries would be allowed throughout the state, would be left up to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The five-person commission would separately regulate both recreational and medical marijuana. Recreational purchases would be taxed, while medicinal purchases would be exempt.

As the bill currently stands, cannabis growers would be taxed at a rate of $42 per ounce. Cities that allow dispensaries would also be permitted to tax those businesses, along with growers and wholesalers. Before these tax guidelines were even announced, over 60 cities and towns made the decision to ban weed related businesses. The fact that polls show over 60% of New Jersey residents supporting legalization is hoped to bring many towns around to participating at some point in the future.

The current weed legalization bill in New Jersey is unique from those in other states for three reasons. First, licenses would only be given out to applicants who had been living in the state for at least two years. Secondly, the commission would be required to award 30% of licenses to African Americans, women, and disabled veterans. Finally, 25% of licenses would be given to microbusiness owners. These provisions are designed to offset the former disproportionate targeting of minorities for marijuana-related arrests and to shield the new weed industry from being immediately snatched up by big business. In addition, residents with past marijuana convictions would see their records expunged.

While opponents voice concerns over marijuana use and driving, the writing may already be on the wall. As neighboring states consider legalization and the revenue it promises, New Jersey could be hit hard, financially, if it passes over this opportunity. Current medical dispensaries across the state fully expect the new bill to pass and are preparing expansions in order to provide for the explosion of recreational consumers.

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