Is New Jersey making a deal with the Devil? That is the accusation being made by opponents of legalized cannabis.
Two crucial committees in New Jersey, the state Assembly, and the Senate, recently approved a bill for the legalization of cannabis. The bill was backed by the Democratic Governor, Phil Murphy. As of now, the bill is heading to both chambers of New Jersey legislature for an official floor vote.
The bill itself went through some last-minute changes which delayed discussions which had been scheduled to take place earlier last week. The revisions to the bill centered around the proposed tax rates for retail cannabis in the Garden State as well as adding in new provisions for expunging minor marijuana-related convictions.
Legalization in the state would see a $42 state tax added to each ounce of cannabis sold. Also, local governments would have the ability to collect up to three percent of the sales revenue from dispensaries and up to two percent from wholesalers. Cultivators would be required to pay a tax equal to one percent of their sales revenue to local governments as well.
The little hold-up didn’t hurt the bill at all. Quite the opposite, the bill was passed by a large sweep of votes in both committees. It’s supporters seeing it as a huge step for the state’s justice system, especially regarding racial injustices.
“There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” Annette Quijano, a democratic Assemblyperson, and a co-sponsor of the new bill said. “It is time we listen to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and take a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. This bill is a huge first step.”
That said, the bill wasn’t so pleasing to all legislators in the state. For example, Republication Senator Michael Doherty, most notably, likened the legislation to making a deal with the Devil.
“I’m voting “no” on marijuana legalization today in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The proposal is a deal with the devil that sacrifices children and communities for short-term political gain,” said Doherty.
Regardless of the opposition, the bill is heading straight for a full vote by New Jersey legislators. According to Murphy, he is pushing for the legislation to be voted on by the last week of March. The governor hopes to establish a fully legal cannabis industry in the state by the beginning of 2020.