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Lawmakers have struck a deal on a bill that would launch a legal marijuana industry in New Jersey, clearing a path for a bill to be passed later this month.
“There is a deal,” said Sen. Nicholas Scootery, the D-union sponsor of the marijuana legalization bill (S21). “It has been a long road and I will be happy when it is done.”
The agreement puts a limit on licensing back into law: the state can only grant 37 licenses to marijuana growers during the first two years of legal sales. The limit does not apply to microsections, which may be offered to businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
It dedicates 70% of sales tax revenue, as well as all funds raised by a tax on farmers, to support legal aid, health care, advice and restorative programs for communities affected by the drug war in minority communities for.
The first piece is a victory for the Legislative Assembly and the second for the Senate. Disagreements to limit licensing and direct funding for social justice both lead to delays in the process.
“When the bill was introduced into the Senate several years ago, there was no mention of social justice, social equity and revenue coming back to affected communities and individuals who were affected by the war on drugs.” -Anion, one of the sponsors of the bill in the Legislative Assembly. “While it has taken a very long time in dialogue, debate and negotiations, I am very proud of the work of the Black Caucus and members of the Assembly and our speaker for building the focal point of social justice in this bill. All New Jersey should be proud. “
Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin on Friday evening issued a joint statement with Scootery and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, another sponsor of the bill’s Assembly version.
“We are proud to announce today that we are preparing for legislation a legislation that is an important step to reduce racial inequality and social inequalities,” the statement said.
“This law will meet our shared goals of providing restorative justice and ensure that communities most affected by the war on drugs see the economic benefits of the adult-use cannabis market. While there is still much work ahead, we are close to building a new, promising industry for our state. “
New Jersey voters approved a ballot question seeking to amend the state’s constitution and legalize marijuana on 3 November. 3. But lawmakers should still pass a bill to establish rules and legislation for the new marijuana industry to make people’s will a reality.
Scootery has insisted on working quickly and achieving anything before 1 January when the constitutional amendment comes into effect. And others have pressured lawmakers to pass a bill that would end marijuana possession and arrest.
Legislators passed another bill earlier this week on the issue, which would allow people to hold up to six ounces of marijuana. The effort fell into place in November after the Senate added a provision that would also reduce penalties for possessing silocobins, commonly known as “magic” mushrooms. The Assembly did not put a vote on it.
Instead, he introduced a separate bill to reduce criminal penalties for psilocybin offenses, which would go before the Assembly Judiciary Committee for a first hearing on Monday morning. MPs are expected to move forward with a bill to reduce marijuana this month.
This week senators also introduced a new constitutional amendment, which could go before voters in 2021. It attempts to concretize the tax framework outlined in S21, ensuring that the funds go to social and racial justice causes only, and not from the state’s general fund.
Lawmakers amended the bill by coming up with a tax scheme, after which advocates were ordered to testify against an original version, in which no money was paid to minority communities. He also called for an end to the limit on licenses, arguing that an industry open to more operators would allow more minorities and women to enter the industry. A large industry can also produce more marijuana, and cause prices to fall.
But the state’s existing medical marijuana companies, which competed fiercely for a limited number of licenses, strongly supported a temporary limit on new licensees to maintain a hold on the initial market.
The legalization bill will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on 14 December and for a full vote on 17 December, Scootery said.
NJ Advance Media reporter Susan K. Livio contributed to this report.
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