Marijuana bills pass the committees: How the sausage gets made

On Monday there was a six hour delay in starting the hearing while changes were being made in the three marijuana bills. The Senate and Assembly committees reported out the bills while they were still being printed. Members of the public were sent home and told there would be no testimony heard. A final vote in both chambers may take place next week but there is still no assurance of passage. Even if passed, it will take about a year to implement.

In spite of the six hour delay when presumably efforts were being made to make the bills more appealing to legislators, NJ Spotlight reports not much has changed from the agreement Murphy announced last week:

  • The tax rate will be set at a flat $42 per ounce on cultivators;
  • the expungement process will be expedited for those convicted of low-level marijuana crimes;
  • a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be created to oversee the industry;
  • one big change is that for the first 18 months there would be a ceiling on 28 grow facilities;
  • localities would be able to impose a 3 percent retail tax on top of that. Towns that host marijuana growers would be able to impose a 2 percent tax, and towns with wholesalers could charge a 1 percent tax.
  • medical facilities would be able to begin selling recreational cannabis within six months of the law taking effect.

As in the previous version, NJ Spotlight indicates individuals would be permitted to get weed delivered directly to them. Retailers would be able to create consumption areas for cannabis on the premises (both indoors and outdoors), as long as they obtain permission from both the state and local governing body.

Sen. Scutari

Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor, said, “Marijuana prohibition has failed. This bill will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated, and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades.”

A quote dating back to 1869 says, “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” Of course that’s a death knell to transparency. Despite protests over the unseemly process at least the  legislature took action. Some legislators were adamant that their “yes” vote to release the bills would not necessarily “translate into affirmative votes on the floor.” So the grinding of this sausage may continue, and when it will end nobody knows. 

The bills are S3205 (expungement legislation), and S10 (medical marijuana expansion). You can access them here. Data on the lengthy final marijuana legalization bill (S2426) is not yet available on the web.

For more information go here. This NJ.com article indicates, “This one could actually get approved.”

Preview photo credit: Andre Malok | NJ Advance Media

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