In advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held June 19, 2017, New Jersey State Senator Nick Scutari released the text of Senate, No. 3195, or SB 3195, the long-awaited bill legalizing cannabis in New Jersey. In a statement announcing the bill in mid-May, Senator Scutari, the bill’s sponsor, stated, “Now is the time to begin shaping New Jersey’s recreational marijuana program. We will have a new governor next year and we should be prepared to move forward with a program that ends the prohibition on marijuana and that treats our residents fairly and humanely.”
Governor Chris Christie, an ardent opponent of legalization, once famously remarked that tax revenue generated by legalization of marijuana should be considered “blood money.” As a result, the legislature is not expected to vote on the bill until 2018, when Governor Christie is out of office.
Senator Scutari and other New Jersey legislators took trips to Colorado to see their legalization framework firsthand. The effect is a bill that closely resembles Colorado’s version. SB 3195 proposes the following:
- Legalizing the possession of one ounce of marijuana flower, seven ounces of concentrate, 16 ounces of edible products infused with cannabis, seven grams of cannabis concentrate, and 72 ounces of infused liquid for adults over 21 years of age
- Elimination of sales tax on medical cannabis purchases and installing a staggered sales tax schedule on recreational purchases. The tax rate the first year is proposed to be 7%, 10% in year two, and then increase by 5% each year after that until reaching 25%
- Expunging criminal charges related to possession of marijuana
- Creating a new division within the Office of the Attorney General that would be specifically charged with overseeing the legalization program
As drafted, SB 3195 prohibits home cultivation of cannabis. While stating that he would be open to negotiating that element of the bill, Senator Scutari noted the difficulties that Colorado and other states have experienced in regulating and controlling home cultivation. Those states impose limits on home cultivation, but enforcement of those limits has proven challenging.
A study by New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform estimated that legalizing cannabis could bring $300 million in new tax revenue in year one.