Despite internal bickering, New Jersey is on the verge of becoming the 11th state to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis.
Lawmakers in the state Senate and General Assembly could vote as early as next week. If the bill gets enough votes in both chambers, it will then go to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy for signing, making New Jersey the first state to pass a recreational marijuana bill through the legislative branch rather than at the polls.
With legalization all but certain, here’s what you need to know about New Jersey’s plan.
Who can use cannabis?
Anyone over the age of 21.
How much will it be taxed?
There will be a $42 per ounce tax on wholesalers. Local municipalities can also impose additional taxes on cannabis businesses, including a 4 percent tax on dispensaries, 2 percent tax on growers and processors and 1 percent tax on wholesalers.
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Tax revenue will go towards a Cannabis Regulatory fund to develop, regulate and enforce cannabis industry standards and help balance the state’s general fund.
I have a marijuana charge on my criminal record. Will it be expunged?
Yes. the bill would dismiss all pending cannabis charges and convictions for possessing up to five pounds. Also, employers, licensing boards and other institutions would be banned from considering past convictions.
An “expedited expungement” process will be put in place to accelerate applications to the Superior Court.
Can I be turned away from a job because I use cannabis legally?
No. Employers cannot use your cannabis habits against you during the hiring process. The legislation does not say anything, however, about whether someone can be fired for using on the job.
I want to start a cannabis business but I don’t have the capital. Will my application still be considered?
Yes. New Jersey will issue conditional licenses to allow extra time for people and start-ups to accrue cash and insurance. To receive one of these licenses, you must be a resident of New Jersey for at least two consecutive years and have an adjusted gross income of no more than $200,000 for one person and $400,000 for two people.
Can I drive and smoke pot once it’s legal in New Jersey?
No, impaired driving remains illegal. Plus, the bill sets up a task force to study the influence of cannabis on the ability to drive.
How much control will local municipalities?
Cities and jurisdictions will maintain the option to prohibit the operation of a cannabis business and can put caps on licenses within their borders. Municipalities also have the option to fine people $200 for consuming cannabis in public.
Who will oversee the program?
A commission comprising five full-time members. Three of the members will be appointed by the governor, one by the senate president and one by the assembly speaker. The chair of the commission will be selected by the governor and the vice chairs will be chosen by state legislators.
The commissioners will determine the number of licenses, provide a biannual report to the state and conduct a study three years into the program to determine continued rate of taxation and the future of the commission itself.
In its medical marijuana bill, Pennsylvania encouraged diversity of race and gender among cannabis business applicants. Will New Jersey do the same?
Yes. Thirty percent of adult-use and 30 percent of medical-use licenses should go towards women, veterans and ethnic minorities, according to the bill.