Legislation to legalize recreational use of cannabis is finalized; here are details

March 18, 2019

By Anjalee Khemlani

A bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana was finalized by the governor and legislative leaders Wednesday night.

The 168-page bill, obtained by ROI-NJ, includes provisions for setting up the cannabis industry and social justice provisions — including expungement — to help those who have been prosecuted over the issue previously.

(Read a copy of the bill below.)

Bills — one will originate in both the state Senate and the Assembly — are expected to be taken up in the Legislature as soon as this week. They are expected to be voted on by the end of the month.

If the measure is signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, it is projected to net the state $60 million for Fiscal Year 2020, according to the governor’s budget proposal.

The legislation, worked on by Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), would allow for the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis to be used in private homes — government-subsidized housing is still barred — and defined consumption establishments, which will include outdoor seating areas.

The bill sets up a taxable industry of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers. A tax of $42 will be imposed on growers for each ounce of marijuana grown in the state.

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Legal weed vote needs to happen this month, top N.J. Democrat says. ‘The time to get it done is now.’

March 8, 2019

By Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It’s crunch time for legal pot in New Jersey. So says the Garden State’s top-ranking state lawmaker.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Thursday he’s hoping to finally hold a vote this month on a long-debated — and long-delayed — bill to legalize recreational marijuana here.

Waiting any longer, Sweeney said, will likely make it harder for the measure to pass.

“It’s really important that we get this thing done this month,” Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told NJ Advance Media in an interview at the Statehouse in Trenton.

“The time to get it done is now,” he said.

One issue: Top lawmakers have yet to formally introduce the bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax the possession of small amounts of marijuana for people 21 and older in New Jersey.

Sources said last month that the three Democrats who lead the state — Sweeney, state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and Gov. Phil Murphy— ended months of disagreement by reaching a deal on what the bill would look like.

But Sweeney said there is still one issue holding the legislation up. He wouldn’t reveal what.

Once the bill is introduced, both houses of the Democratic-controlled Legislature — the Senate and Assembly — would need to pass it before Murphy could sign it into law.

Still, it’s unclear if there are enough votes in either chamber to pass the measure. Sweeney said “there’s a path” to the 21 votes needed in the Senate, but he needs Murphy’s help to drum up support from lawmakers on the fence.

That means Sweeney and Coughlin, D-Middlesex, would be up against the clock to get a vote done by the end of March. As of now, the Senate has a voting session on March 14, and both houses have scheduled sessions for March 25.

Coughlin’s office was less keen Thursday to call for a quick vote. His spokesman, Kevin McArdle, said the speaker is discussing the bill with his fellow Assembly Democrats to “address any concerns” and ensure the final measure is “responsible.”

“Getting the final bill right is far more important than getting it done quickly,” McArdle said.

Sweeney has missed a few self-imposed deadlines for a legal weed vote over the last year. But this time, he said, is more dire.

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Still lacking deal, Murphy budget eyes $60M in legal marijuana tax money

March 5, 2019

By: Gabrielle Saulsbery
March 5, 2019 2:01 pm

The governor’s proposed budget calls for $60 million of tax revenue on legal marijuana for half the year, assuming lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy can agree on a bill.

If legalized adult use cannabis and the surrounding bureaucracy is implemented on Jan. 1, 2020, the budget projects $39 million in net revenue over the course of six months.

Twenty-one million dollars would go towards the first-time costs of getting the administration set up, according to Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio, but over time that amount would flatten out at roughly $12 million a year.

Murphy campaigned on legalizing marijuana within his first 100 days of office, but his efforts fell flat as they stalled in the state Legislature. A deal struck in February calls for cannabis to be taxed at $42 an ounce, and for a five-person Cannabis Regulatory Commission to oversee the fledgling market. Murphy would be able to pick three seats requiring Senate approval.

The $60 million gross revenue estimate is based on the per-ounce-tax, according to a senior administration official.

“We haven’t seen final legislation yet so we had to make some assumptions,” the official said. “But the estimate doesn’t assume any licensing fees at this point. It’s based on the per ounce tax, and the assumption that the per ounce tax might phase up in steps.”

The departments expected to be responsible for the expenditures are the Department of Health, Department of the Treasury, Department of Agriculture and the Attorney General’s Office.

Additionally, the continued expansion of medical marijuana is scored for $20 million.

(Marijuana) rules of the road

March 5, 2019

There’s no reliable way to measure how impaired a driver is after smoking weed, experts say. And because of legal precedent, it’s harder to talk about it in a courtroom.

Payton Guion and Claude Brodesser-Akner For The Star-Ledger Justin Bealor weaved through the streets of Sea Isle City shortly after midnight one July morning in 2002, an open 12-pack of beer in the back seat and the odor of burnt marijuana in the car. Police saw him cross the yellow lines in the road several times before he turned into oncoming traffic.

Two state troopers pulled him over and arrested him after finding a used marijuana pipe in his pocket. They found marijuana residue in the pipe and a urine test later confirmed that Bealor had marijuana in his system.

But none of that meant Bealor was impaired by marijuana, his attorneys later argued, and upon appeal, New Jersey’s Supreme Court concurred in a 2006 decision. The court noted the state trooper who arrested Bealor wasn’t an expert in assessing the effects of marijuana use, and the state’s forensic expert who was hadn’t bothered to explain what effect it might have had.

The Bealor decision and other legal precedent established in other states raise huge concerns for police departments across New Jersey that they may not be able to effectively deal with people suspected of driving while high, concerns that could soon become even more pressing as state lawmakers appear to be getting closer to legalizing marijuana.

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Voters would decide if N.J. legalizes weed under brand new proposal

March 1, 2019

By Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

WASHINGTON — A pair of state lawmakers — one Republican and one Democrat — are working on a proposal that would allow New Jersey voters, rather than legislators, to decide whether to legalize marijuana in the Garden State.

Currently, New Jersey’s leaders are hoping to legalize weed here by having the New Jersey Legislature vote on a bill that would tax and regulate recreational pot use for people 21 and older.

But state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, and state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex — both of whom are against legal weed — have a different plan.

Schepisi and Rice told NJ Advance Media they are sponsoring a measure that would allow for possession of small amounts of marijuana — up to one ounce — but only if the state’s voters approve it in a ballot referendum.

Schepisi said this would give voters not only a say but time to become educated on the pros and cons of marijuana legalization before making up their mind.

“Right now, they’re just hearing soundbites,” Schepisi told NJ Advance Media on Thursday during the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Walk to Washington” train trip ridden by New Jersey lawmakers, local officials, business leaders, and lobbyists.

“Let’s allow the public to become educated before they make a determination of whether or not this is what they really want,” she added.

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Here’s What’s Happening with Cannabis Legalization in New York and New Jersey

February 28, 2019

by Greg Miller
Executive Director, NICI

Legalizing recreational cannabis use in New York and New Jersey would be a huge win for cannabis investors. Here’s where the Big Apple and the Garden State stand on the issue…

Cannabis legalization was a key issue for voters in the 2018 U.S. elections: Michigan legalized recreational use and Utah and Missouri legalized medical cannabis. That’s a good start, but the news gets even better – and bigger – in 2019.

New York and New Jersey, two of the most populous U.S. states, could be the next to legalize recreational cannabis.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY-D) expects his state could raise about $300 million in annual revenue from legalization. Governor Phil Murphy (NJ-D) also believes New Jersey could generate a similar amount of revenue, according to Bloomberg.

And it’s clear that residents of each state want legalization.

According to a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 63% of New York voters favor legalizing cannabis. For New Jersey, a 2018 poll by Rutgers University‘s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling found that 60% of New Jersey adults wanted legalization.

But if the majority of folks want this to happen, what’s the hold up?

Today, I wanted to give you an update on the legalization efforts in these two states.

The Big Apple and the Garden State could be huge cannabis markets, and companies expanding into New York and New Jersey could rake in massive profits…

New Jersey Pushes for Cannabis Legalization

New Jersey could be a big cannabis market, and state officials need to make sure they get legalization right.

They don’t want to end up like California, which expected $643 million in tax revenue from legal marijuana sales in 2018 but only hauled in $350 million. I’m going to have more details on that tomorrow in my Cannabis Profits Daily report.

To delve into the biggest issues a little further, the team at the National Institute for Cannabis Investors spoke with Juan Carlos Negrin, the President of the New Jersey Marijuana Retailers Association about where legalization stands in New Jersey. Here’s what he told us:

“There has been recent progress, but until the Governor’s (Phil Murphy) signature is on the bill, there is still work to be done on the legislation. The two biggest obstacles holding it up are oversight and pricing.

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Fed chair seeks ‘clarity’ on whether cannabis businesses can open bank accounts as N.J. considers legalization

February 27, 2019

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

The chairman of the Federal Reserve acknowledged the dilemma faced by legal cannabis enterprises that can’t get checking accounts or accept credit cards because most banks can’t do business with them as long as the drug is illegal on the federal level.

“It puts financial institutions in a very difficult place,” Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday. “It would be nice to have clarity on that.”

Because banks are federally regulated, any efforts to do business with cannabis companies would run afoul of the federal ban on marijuana. Banks that work with such companies could be charged with money laundering.

Powell was responding to a question from U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., whose state is moving toward legalizing cannabis for personal use. A bill could be finished as early as next week.

“My home state of New Jersey is moving towards legalization of recreational marijuana, and I have concerns that these new businesses as well as the existing medical marijuana businesses in the state will continue to find themselves shut out of the banking system,” Menendez said. “And when these businesses are forced to operate exclusively in cash, they create serious public safety concerns.”

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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

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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