While no official legislature has been drafted, the New Jersey Senate is preparing the votes to pass two measures that would expand medical marijuana and legalize recreational cannabis statewide. Senate President Steve Sweeney is confident that the bill will have the votes by the time they are proposed in September.
Finding the Votes
While the issue has not been overwhelmingly bipartisan, it is likely that some conservative will vote to approve the measure. Sweeney notes that, “There’s some people that will never support it and there are some people who are just hedging their bets because there’s not a bill to look at.” He went on to say, “Don’t be surprised when people who say they were against it vote for it.”
To approve the two measures, Sweeney will need solicit at least 21 votes in the Senate and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin will need to do his due diligence to secure at least 41 votes in the General Assembly. The Senate President is secure in his expectations saying, “I’m confident we‘ll get to 21 and 41. I‘m not going to get to 28, but I’m confident I’ll get to 21 votes and the speaker will find 41.”
Medical Marijuana Expansion
Something that is very unique about the measures that will be drafted and proposed in the week ahead, is that expansion of medical marijuana will be directly tied to the legalization of recreational cannabis. This is a promise that Sweeney is intent to make good on and is hopeful that he’ll receive support across the aisle.
He recently said, “Listen, we’re going to need to work with [Republicans] to pass it. I can’t get anyone to make a commitment on something that they have no idea what it looks like, nor would I expect them to make the commitment.” Sweeney is certain that once the bills are drafted, conservatives will align with fellow New Jersey officials Governor Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Coughlin.
Tax Rate for Cannabis
There are still a few questions that remain as the bill is being drafted such as expunging the records for marijuana related crimes, and establishing a fair tax percentage. Senate President Sweeney is determined to get it lower than 25% to prevent consumers from resorting to the black market.
“I don’t want [the tax rate] to be 25 percent, because then you’re just going to keep the black market alive. If you tax it too high, you incentivize people to use the black market because you’ve raised the price too high.” remarked Sweeney.
Only time will tell whether or not Republicans and Democrats can push through this legislation, but it’s fair to say that a carefully crafted bill is the only way forward. If Sweeney and Coughlin can secure the minimum number of votes in the Assembly and Senate, New Jersey will be the 31st state to legalize recreational marijuana.