After months of uncertainty and delay, the Governor and state legislative leaders have reached an agreement on a package of bills to legalize the adult use and sale of cannabis, expand the medical marijuana program and reform the expungement process for prior cannabis convictions in the State of New Jersey.
On Monday, March 18, 2019, the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the foregoing bills which, as written, include the following provisions:
- A flat tax of $42.00 per ounce, regardless of the price of cannabis. As a result, the higher the price per ounce the lower percentage tax rate and vice versa.
- Allowing personal possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.
- Formation of a New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) to establish rules, regulations and procedures for the New Jersey cannabis industry, issue licenses and investigate alleged violations of state laws and regulations. The CRC will also have oversight of the medical marijuana program that is currently under the supervision of the Department of Health. Once the new bill is signed into law, the CRC will have six months to issue new regulations to govern the adult use market in New Jersey.
- The CRC will be comprised of five members, three appointed by the Governor and the remaining two appointed at the request of the Senate President and Assembly speaker. One commissioner would be a representative of a national social justice commission.
- A licensed dispensary will be permitted to operate a cannabis consumption lounge subject to the approval of its local municipality.
- Home delivery will be permitted by approved licensed dispensaries.
- A fund will be established to offset some of the costs that local governments and State Police will incur in training officers as drug recognition experts who could determine whether a driver was operating a motor vehicle while impaired by administering a series of in field exams.
- Most importantly, one of the bills includes an expedited process for expungement through the State Superior Court for past cannabis convictions.
Unlike most all of the other states that have legalized cannabis for adult use, home grown cannabis will remain illegal.
If the bills pass both committees, it is anticipated that they will be presented to the Assembly and Senate for vote as early as Monday March 25, but only if passage is assured according to legislative leaders.