New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act

November 28, 2018

New Jersey is on its way to legalizing adult-use cannabis. On Monday, November 26, 2018, a panel consisting of New Jersey’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and Assembly Appropriations Committee met to hear testimony from the public regarding the proposed New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act” ( “S2703”).  If enacted, the bill will legalize possession and personal use of cannabis for persons aged 21 and over.  Opponents of the bill voiced their concerns regarding increases in impaired driving, addiction, and the likelihood that cannabis could be consumed by children through edible products. Advocates, on the other hand, voiced their approval citing social justice and stimulation to the economy.

By a vote of seven to two, with four abstentions, the panel voted in favor of the Act, releasing it from committee and allowing it to be posted for a vote by the full Senate and Assembly.  

If enacted, S2703 will make it legal to possess up to one ounce of cannabis by those aged 21 and over in New Jersey.  The bill also creates a five-person cannabis commission to regulate the substance and industry.  The bill calls for a 12% tax on cannabis purchases and allows municipalities to impose an additional 2% tax.  This is one of the lowest in the country for adult-use cannabis.  The legislation also calls for expungement of records for certain cannabis-related crimes.

Notably, S2703 contains several provisions that differ from laws passed by other states who have legalized adult-use cannabis.  For example, S2703 permits cannabis consumption in designated “consumption areas” or lounges, which will be operated by licensed dispensaries. The bill also allows delivery of cannabis to a consumer’s home, which is prohibited in most states.  Finally, S2703 would allow the sale of edibles, such as cannabis-infused gummies, candy and cookies, which many claim pose a risk child safety.

To become a law, the bill will need 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly, and final approval by Governor Phil Murphy. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester, has indicated that he will not post the bill for a vote until it has Gov. Murphy’s support.  While Murphy campaigned on the legalization of cannabis, he has raised concern over the 12% tax rate, which he claims is far too low. Previously, Murphy suggested a 25% tax would be appropriate.

The Regulated Substances Blog is intended to keep readers current on developments regarding medical cannabis legalization and regulation and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact Peter Murphy (pmurphy@eckertseamans.com) or Dan Clearfield (dclearfield@eckertseamans.com).

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