New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy this week signed legislation to grant standard business tax deductions to licensed cannabis companies in a move designed to improve the viability of the state’s regulated marijuana industry. The measure, which decouples New Jersey’s tax laws from Section 280E of the federal tax code, was signed by Murphy on Monday following passage of the bill by the state legislature in February.
In many states that have legalized cannabis for recreational or medical use, tax laws follow the lead of Section 280E of the federal tax code, which denies most standard business tax deductions for cannabis businesses. Under the rule, cannabis operators are only allowed to deduct the cost of goods sold, while deductions for other standard business expenses such as rent, payroll and utilities are not allowed for most businesses.
The bill from Democratic Assemblymembers Annette Quijano, Clinton Calabrese and Linda Carter was passed by the New Jersey General Assembly on February 27. An identical companion measure, sponsored by Democratic state Senators Troy Singleton and Shirley Turner, also passed in the state Senate on the same day by a vote of 32-3.
Under the new legislation, which goes into effect immediately and applies to tax years beginning on January 1, 2023, cannabis companies will be permitted to deduct certain business expenses on their state tax returns. The bill does not affect the federal tax liability owed by the businesses. The sponsors of the legislation say that the bill will help improve diversity in the regulated cannabis industry, which faces steep barriers to entry and high taxes and regulatory fees.
“We have seen here in New Jersey, and around the country, that legal cannabis businesses tend to lack diversity both in gender and race amongst its ownership ranks,” Singleton said in a statement quoted by local media. “This law aims to level the playing field for all cannabis businesses.”
“It will ensure that dispensaries are paying a fair amount of taxes by taking into account critical business expenditures and allowing these deductions from their income,” he added.
“New Jersey’s cannabis industry is still in its infancy, and we need to act early to provide equal opportunity for all businesses to succeed,” Turner said. “Supporting dispensaries while promoting diversity within the cannabis industry is better for our local economy and also helps to ensure that the profits from recreational cannabis are being funneled back into the communities that need it most.”
The legislation to grant standard business tax deductions to New Jersey cannabis companies is also supported by representatives of the regulated cannabis industry, including the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA), a trade group that said the legislation “will provide a more economically viable landscape for our young industry and those wishing to enter it.”
“The continued implementation of 280E placed several financial constraints on cannabis operators, big and small, by prohibiting them from deducting common business expenses from their taxes,” the NJCTA said in a statement. “Now, New Jersey’s licensed cannabis operators will be treated like any other legal enterprise operating in New Jersey, a sense of normalcy that our industry will cherish.”
James Leventis, executive vice president of legal, compliance & government affairs for Verano, a company that operates three Zen Leaf dispensaries in New Jersey, applauded the passage of the new legislation, saying it eliminates “a key barrier that has impeded entrepreneurship and the growth of the cannabis industry across the nation.”
“It’s inspiring to see New Jersey take this bold step to support one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation,” Leventis wrote in an email to High Times. “I hope to see similar courageous action by leaders across additional states – and, most importantly, at the federal level – to deliver further cannabis reforms that will allow our industry to finally reach its full potential as a catalyst for positive economic and social progress across the U.S.”
Other states that have legalized marijuana including New York, California, Hawaii, Michigan, Colorado and Oregon have passed legislation to separate their state tax laws from Section 280E. Similar legislation is pending in Connecticut.