New Jersey has finally taken a step forward in the long, arduous journey to legalizing recreational marijuana by advancing a new piece of legislation. The proceedings were “testy” and included some “back-room wrangling,” according to the Associated Press. But questions remain if the measure will ultimately pass and reach Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.
After the marathon-like hearing, the measure closely resembles what Murphy has previously presented. Instead of taxing sales percentage of cannabis products, New Jersey would join Alaska in taxing cannabis at a per-ounce rate ($42 per oz). The bill also includes a provision that would allow towns to add an addition 3 percent tax in some cases, though those details aren’t known at the moment.
Should the legislation pass, New Jersey would become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana use. According to NJ.com, leaders in both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly are short the necessary votes to pass the bill at the moment. Murphy, who boldly claimed he’d legalize recreational marijuana during the state’s gubernatorial race, has been under fire recently for not doing enough to fire up lawmakers and get the votes in order. Murphy instead wants to rely on a high-minded, merit-based politics to get the job done.
“I won’t get into if it’s five (votes short) or 10 or three or none,” Murphy said. “I’m not a big believer in transactional politics. I believe my role will be to say, ‘Listen, from my perspective as the chief executive of the state, let me tell you why I think this is an imperative.’”
This is setting up to be a historic vote, which should take place on March 25, the final possible day for a vote. NJ.com reports that lawmakers have made progress on acquiring the necessary votes, but they still need to swing a couple more votes in the Senate and Assembly.
If legislators miss the March 25 deadline or fall short in the votes, the next time New Jersey would discuss legalizing recreational cannabis wouldn’t be until after the November election, according to State Senate President Stephen Sweeney.