New Jersey is about to join the sane states regarding marijuana! Alcohol did not create Al Capone; prohibition created Al Capone.
Excerpts from the Article.
After a day of marathon testimony from the public on the cannabis implementation bill, budget panels for the Assembly and Senate released S-21/A-21 to advance to floor votes in each house.
Overall, sponsors say it was a good day for the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act as key issues were smoothed over in the form of amendments to the bill, while some are still being worked out.
A-21 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee just before 2 p.m. by a 7-4 vote, conducted remotely.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, which met in the Statehouse annex under social distancing guidelines, passed the Senate companion, S-21, by an 8-4 vote.
Added on Thursday were amendments to A-21/S-21 that would:
Dedicate proceeds to social justice with a “Social Equity Excise Fee” that requires a per-ounce tax of anywhere from $10 to $60 on transfers from cultivators. All proceeds from the excise fee will be earmarked for “social justice” programs, according to a sponsor, Sen. Nicholas Scutari;
Remove the cap on the number of cultivation licenses, 28 in the bill, to award. Scutari said the Governor’s Office and the Senate are pushing for more than 28 to ensure supply meets demand; and
Modify employer drug testing.
But as far as when the measure will actually go for a floor vote in either house, the only certainty is it won’t be on Monday, said Scutari, D-Union, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a chief architect of S-21.
Scutari had hoped before Thursday’s action that Monday would be the vote since the Senate and Assembly have scheduled voting sessions that day.
“It will definitely not be Monday,” Scutari said minutes after the Senate panel voted. “We’re still waiting for the Assembly to pass the [marijuana decriminalization bill]. We’ve [the state senators] already passed the decrim bill and we’re just waiting on action by the Assembly.”
Scutari said it would be ideal to have the two bills—one to decriminalize possession of marijuana and the other setting up the regulatory framework to establish a commercial market to sell cannabis to the general public—to pass in tandem and get final approval at the same time.
The Senate approved the decriminalization bill earlier this week 29-4, but the Assembly paused to resolve issues over expungement and types of cannabis that would be included in the bill, according to lawmakers.
Hours before the Senate panel green-lighted S-21 at 5:39 p.m., the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, the deputy speaker, heard nearly three hours of testimony from those who already sell marijuana in other states that legalized it (Oregon and Colorado), those whose lives have been impacted by a marijuana arrest, and those who felt the proceeds and licenses should tilt more favorably toward minority communities affected by mass incarceration.
Tiyahann Bryant of East Orange asked when the licenses would be doled out.
“East Orange is an impact zone,” Bryant testified. “We have the infrastructure in place and we’re ready to enter the cannabis industry.”
Tauhid Chappel, a Camden County resident, medical marijuana user and social activist, questioned whether more of the marijuana revenue should go toward social equity programs. He was certain to whom it shouldn’t go to.
“I don’t believe any of the tax revenue should go to police,” said Chappel. “They’ve caused the problem to begin with,” in the form of mass arrests, said Chappel.
Later, during the Senate Budget Committee hearing, Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, was still not satisfied over the language in S-21 over employer protections. Sarlo wants employers to have the ability to use random drug testing to ensure workplace and public safety. “I am very concerned about the liability on employers and the welfare and safety of the public who will be impacted by somebody who commits an accident” while working and under the influence of cannabis, said Sarlo, who said language permitting random employee drug testing was taken out of the final bill. “This bill will get out today, but I am not going further until I see that language tightened further.”
The Senate panel heard testimony from Ray Cantor, vice president of government affairs for New Jersey Business & Industry Association, over what he described as “unnecessary mandates and costs of implementing a workplace expert to determine if someone is impaired on the job” from cannabis; and Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, who raised similar concerns over employer protections and being able to administer drug tests.
“We can’t be at a plant location with experts 24/7,” said Hart. “In this industry, safety is paramount.”
“This bill has been pushed and pulled in so many directions by special interests and legislators who want nothing more than to get their hands on a tax windfall. I am disappointed that Trenton couldn’t do the right thing and pass a bill that has not been corrupted by greed.” Testa criticized what he called the bill’s excessive taxation and what he described as “the complicated layers of regulations” it would create.
Under the bill, cannabis would have a 6.25% sales tax, a sliding scale on the excise tax depending on the cost of the product, and a 2% local tax, said Scutari.
Scutari said 70% of the sales tax and 100% of the excise tax (social equity cultivation fee) would go toward social equity programs. As the panel debated S-21’s merits and shortcomings, Scutari made it clear the Legislature was facing a deadline that was fast approaching.
The legalization of adult-use marijuana in New Jersey gained voter approval by a 2-1 margin on Nov. 3. Enabling legislation was introduced three days later.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction,” Scutari said at 5:30 p.m. just before the vote. “But people need to understand that marijuana will be legalized in New Jersey on Jan. 1 whether we act or not. We can’t shirk our responsibilities.”