Brick Council Sets Tuesday Vote to Ban Recreational Marijuana Sales, Cultivation

February 25, 2019

Brick, NJ Shorebeat

In a reversal from Brick officials’ previous statements indicating that the township would hold off on a vote to ban recreational marijuana sales – should cannabis become legal in New Jersey – until the law doing so actually passes. But on Tuesday, the council has scheduled to vote to introduce an ordinance to just that.

While a copy of the proposed ordinance was not publicly published, a meeting agenda obtained by Shorebeat states that the council will vote to introduce a new ordinance to prohibit “retail sale, cultivation, manufacturing and testing of marijuana products for recreational use” in Brick Township.

The ordinance is restricted only to recreational sales and cultivation, and its effects – if any – on a proposed medical dispensary and grow house off Adamston Road are unknown. The controversial medical marijuana facility has drawn outrage from neighboring residents and, in recent weeks, has become a personal battle between the residents and owners of the proposed facility – devolving to threats of litigation and police reports filed for harassment.

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Sweeney: Don’t expect recreational cannabis before January 2020

February 22, 2019

The Senate President said he will not start whipping votes on a marijuana bill until legislation is finalized

By: Daniel J. Munoz
NJBIZ

Although Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers recently struck a deal on some of the major points of legal cannabis, don’t expect to be able to buy legal marijuana in New Jersey any time soon.

Speaking to reporters following a Thursday Senate session, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said the soonest that option might be possible would be next January.

“I think, best case scenario, you’re going to have marijuana available legally [in] January,” Sweeney said. “I’ve got to tell you guys, honest to God, the bill isn’t finished.”

The agreement reached last Friday calls for a $42 an ounce flat tax and for regulation of the marijuana industry to be left up to a five person Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

Murphy would pick three of the members without requiring the approval of the Senate, while Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, each pick one member.

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Will you be able to buy legal weed in N.J. with a credit card?

February 21, 2019

By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

WASHINGTON — As more and more states legalize marijuana, their nascent cannabis businesses are running into a problem.

Since cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, dispensaries and other cannabis-related enterprises can’t open bank accounts, accept checks or take credit cards. They can’t give their employees pay checks because they don’t have an account to draw them against. It’s a cash-only business.

“The current conflict between state and federal law has created a cloud of legal uncertainty for community banks, inhibited access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses, and created a serious public safety concern,” Gregory Deckard, who heads a bank in Spokane, Washington, where cannabis is legal, told the House Financial Services subcommittee on consumer protection and financial institutions.

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A Deal on Marijuana Legalization May — Or May Not — Be Imminent

February 21, 2019

NJ Spotlight | February 21, 2019

Lawmakers appear to have resolved problems with proposed legislation, but not all are convinced of the wisdom of legalization.

While a potential deal on marijuana legalization apparently is imminent in the State House, the outcome depends on some big maybes, not least of which is whether Gov. Phil Murphy can whip some votes.

“I am told, and we have read hundreds of times that the governor of the state of New Jersey is the most powerful chief executive in the land and he’s going to need to use that to help the Senate president, and myself and the speaker to get us some votes,” said Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Union), who has been a driving force behind the legalization effort.

Lawmakers have agreed to a flat tax of $42 per ounce, a switch from a percentage of the sale price previously envisaged. They’ve also agreed the governor will appoint three of the five members to the Cannabis Control Commission.

But not every legislator is as keen as Scutari. Newark’s Sen. Ron Rice, for one, said he’s “still a no.” In a statement Tuesday, he said, “Every day there is new information about why we shouldn’t do this.”

Read the full story on NJTV News Online, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.

Murphy, top Dems: glass half full on marijuana legalization

February 20, 2019

By: Daniel J. Munoz
NJBiz

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s “optimistic” about finalizing a deal on a long-awaited bill to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in New Jersey, but he has no timeline on when that will happen or when lawmakers will vote on the measure.

“We’re still trying to machine this to get it over the goal line, but I think we’re all working really hard to get this done,” Murphy said at an unrelated press conference in Piscataway late Tuesday morning.

According to media reports, Murphy and the state Legislature’s two top Democrats — Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District — struck a deal late last week to enact a flat $42/ounce tax on marijuana.

Under the deal, regulation of the industry would be in the hands of the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission — Murphy would be able to pick three members without needing Senate approval.

“We had a very productive meeting Thursday,” Murphy added, which drew out the agreement of Coughlin, who also attended the bill signing event Tuesday expanding paid family leave. “This is complicated. We’re standing up an entire industry from scratch.”

“I think we’re all optimistic about being able to get the ball over the goal line,” Coughlin said.

Murphy would likely have to drum up support in the Senate and Assembly to get the votes — 21 and 41 respectively — to pass the measure and get the bill to his desk. But Murphy did not have any update on the progress of those lobbying efforts.

Local excise tax remains in question as leaders approach marijuana deal

February 17, 2019

By Sam Sutton

02/16/2019 09:00 PM EDT

Significant details of a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New Jersey still need to be finalized, even though Gov. Phil Murphy, state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have reached a broad agreement on key elements of the measure, three sources close to the discussions said Saturday.

There still isn’t a consensus on the rate at which local governments could tax recreational cannabis sales, which the current bill caps at 2 percent. Local governments, led by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, want to impose a tax as high as 5 percent to pay for some of the necessary changes that will come with legalized pot.

“That’s still being worked out,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the legalization bill’s lead sponsor and a central player in negotiations between the governor’s office, Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Coughlin (D-Middlesex).

“We still believe that the flexibility to pass an up to 5 [percent] local excise is appropriate,” Michael Cerra, assistant executive director for the League of Municipalities, said in an email. “We don’t view … that as a line in the sand however and hope that since it now appears that the other major issues are close to resolution that we can have that discussion.”

Scutari emphasized that while the principal players have agreed on a framework for the bill, NJ S2703 (18R), there are still elements that need to be hashed out. Another point being discussed, he said, would give the commission tasked with regulating the industry the authority to review cannabis sales tax rates in the future.

Under terms agreed to this week, the Senate will waive the advice and consent process for Murphy’s three picks to the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The parties also agreed to a $42 per-ounce tax on recreational cannabis sales, as opposed to basing the tax on a percentage of the sales price, sources close to the talks said.

Disagreements over taxation and regulation were the primary stumbling blocks to getting Murphy on board with the legislation. With an agreement in place, all three leaders will start whipping votes in support of the bill.

Marijuana deal may come next week, Scutari says

February 8, 2019

By Nikita Biryukov
New Jersey Globe

Legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy may be nearing a deal on marijuana legalization, State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) told the New Jersey Globe Thursday.

“There’s a possibility that we have an agreement by next week,” Scutari said.

Marijuana legalization stalled last year after opposition from within Senate President Steve Sweeney’s caucus stopped the marijuana legalization package from reaching a 21-vote threshold in the legislature’s upper chamber.

Part of the trouble there may lie in Murphy and legislative leaders butting heads over the tax rate for recreational marijuana sales.

If the two reach a deal, they may be able to gin up the 21 votes needed to pass the measure.

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Lead sponsor of recreational weed bill says he’s ‘losing faith’ in Murphy, weighing ballot vote

January 22, 2019

By Susan K. Livio
NJ Advance Media

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the prime sponsor of the bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey, told NJ Cannabis Insider he’s “losing faith” that Senate Democrats and Gov. Phil Murphy will come to an agreement.

The concern is so acute Scutari said he and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney have discussed letting the voters decide by putting the issue on the November ballot that, if approved, would amend the state constitution.

“It’s not my preference,” said Scutari, D-Union, “but I think it might be a lot easier to let the people decide.”

It would likely be easier to win votes in the state Senate and Assembly for a ballot question than an outright vote on legalization, he added.

The state Legislature would need to pass a bill by three-fifths majority to put a question on the November ballot, according to the state constitution.

Scutari said one of the latest compromises Sweeney, D-Gloucester, verbally offered a month ago would let the governor choose three of the five members on the proposed Cannabis Regulatory Commission — without the legally mandated “advice and consent” of the Senate.

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How N.J. could lose out on millions of dollars if it doesn’t legalize weed soon

January 14, 2019

Payton Guion | NJ Advance Media

2018 was supposed to be the year of legal weed in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy rode into office last January on a promise to quickly legalize marijuana. He said it would bring money and social justice along with it. But lawmakers couldn’t get legal weed through the Legislature, and here we are in 2019.

It’s still unclear when exactly the Legislature will vote on legalization.

As New Jersey debates the details, potential damage mounts. New Jersey risks losing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue as recreational marijuana gets increasingly palatable across the country. At the same time, people keep getting arrested for something likely to be legal soon.

Here are six ways New Jersey could lose out if lawmakers don’t act on marijuana soon.

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Say goodbye to ‘Marlboro Man’ and get ready for ‘Marijuana Man.’ Big Tobacco just moved into the cannabis industry.

January 14, 2019

By Justin Zaremba | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

With a shrinking marketplace for their products, tobacco companies — unsurprisingly — are looking to adapt to the changing marketplace.

Take, for instance, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, Altria.

Last month, Altria announced it was abandoning its e-cigarette brands as it eyed “reduced-risk tobacco product opportunities,” including but not limited to a minority ownership stake in Juul, as well as a partnership with Philip Morris on its tobacco vape, pending FDA approval.

Also, you may have heard Altria invested nearly $2 billion in Cronos Group, the Canadian cannabis company, purchasing a 45 percent ownership interest with an option to acquire more.

Altria is the fourth largest tobacco company in the world, with Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco taking the top three spots, respectively.

What does this mean for the cannabis industry as a whole?

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