State Senator Nicholas Scutari, a Union County, NJ lawmaker, is expected to introduce legislation on Monday that would both legalize and make subject to taxation the sale of marijuana.
Plans to introduce the bill were made by Scutari (D-Linden) in January and would legalize the sale and possession of marijuana by any person over the age of 21 in New Jersey.
A news conference at the New Jersey Statehouse is planned for Monday, at which time the legislation and how it will work will be explained. Scutari said that his plan would create tax revenues the state needs and free up police to deal with and enforce other crimes.
“Legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana will generate revenue in the state while saving millions of dollars spent each year on law enforcement,” Scutiari said in January.
Voters in both Colorado and Washington have already made recreational marijuana legal in those states. Scutari pointed out that neither state has experienced, “the dire results that critics have predicted.”
Scutari likens his plan to the one that was approved in Colorado with the help of vaporizer reviews.
Colorado raised over $2 million in tax revenue in just one month, according to supporters of the legislation which includes Chris Goldstein of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). They speculate that New Jersey could see a windfall that surpasses that if marijuana sales are subject to state tax.
According to Goldstein, the goal is to eliminate the underground cannabis market. “We want to bring that underground market into the light.”
Goldstein also said that legalizing pot would also protect many people — tens of thousands — from gaining a criminal record which creates a huge obstacle in employment and housing opportunities.
There is, according to Goldstein, always a chance of a legislative override.
In January, Scutari also said that he expects the proposal to be met with skepticism from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and certain lawmakers, but said he wants a dialog on the issue opened.
Medical marijuana is already allowed in New Jersey, but it carries some rigid restrictions.
New York State Lawmakers have also made the call to legalize marijuana.
Under current New Jersey law, possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana carries a disorderly persons charge that is punishable by up to six months in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
Former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, now Governor Chris Christie has strenuously opposed making the possession and sale of marijuana legal and has showed resistance to expanding New Jersey’s current medical marijuana laws.
The details of Scutari’s plan still need to be ironed out, but the proposed system would mimic the state’s medical marijuana laws to the extent that facilities that grow and sell pot would need to be licensed.
It is still unclear how many licenses the bill would propose and this legislation would not overturn the state’s marijuana laws. It would simply remove the criminal penalties.