New Jersey could be moving toward a viable legalization bill. This week, local media sources received a copy of a new legalization measure that lawmakers think has a very good chance of passing. If the legislation is approved, New Jersey could soon implement some of the nation’s most progressive cannabis laws.
New Jersey’s New Legalization Bill
The foundation of the new bill is making it legal for adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, and consume small amounts of cannabis. Additionally, the bill explicitly calls for the creation of a robust commercial market.
This foundation is much like other states where weed is legal. But New Jersey’s newest bill also includes a number of features that could make legalization in the state relatively unique. Here are some highlights:
- Low taxes: The new legalization bill calls for retail taxes around 10 percent. As pointed out by local news sources, this would be among the lowest in the nation. Previous iterations of a legalization bill called for taxes in the neighborhood of 15 to 25 percent.
- Retail dispensaries: In many adult-use states, there have been awkward periods where it’s legal to possess and consume weed, but nowhere to legally buy it. But New Jersey’s bill is different. This one calls for a quick implementation of a retail market.
- Smoking lounges: The new law would allow for special consumption areas. Essentially, a cannabis business could apply to have a consumption space separate from the dispensary portion of the business. Such businesses would need state and local approval.
- Home delivery: The new bill calls for the creation of a home delivery system. This would allow a customer to purchase recreational cannabis and have their product delivered directly to their home.
Conscious Approach to Issuing Licenses
Along with the regulations stated above, the new bill calls for a relatively careful approach to issuing licenses to marijuana businesses. In particular, the bill sets aside a certain percentage of licenses for business owners from demographic groups that are often underserved and otherwise marginalized.
For starters, the bill stipulates that 25 percent of all business licenses be set aside for minority, women, and veteran applicants.
Similarly, the bill wants 10 percent of all licenses to be “micro-licenses.” These special licenses would go to small businesses. These business could operate like any other weed business, just at a smaller scale. These licenses would reportedly make it easier for small businesses to enter the market.
Additionally, the bill would favor applicants from “impact zones.” The new bill defines these zones as places that have a relatively high percentage of unemployment.
Expungement is Already in the Works
Finally, the state is continuing to explore ways for people to expunge older marijuana charges from their records. This idea has been pending for a while, though. And lawmakers confirmed to local sources that they are still working on a system for making expungements available.
If cannabis becomes legal in New Jersey, tons of people would have a criminal record for something that’s no longer a crime. To address this, lawmakers proposed letting people expunge cannabis crimes from their records.
Timeline for Legalization
New Jersey lawmakers are in the middle of a back-and-forth process on the legalization front. In June, Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a legalization bill. This most recent measure sets out a number of changes to the legislation he brought forward.
It is unclear when this legalization bill will go into effect, as it’s not certain that it will actually pass. So far, lawmakers appear optimistic.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he hopes to see lawmakers vote on the bill as early as October. If that happens, and if the bill passes, it would likely take around a year before a full-scale retail system would be up and running.