New Jersey’s top lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to legalize cannabis for recreational use, but new dispensaries aren’t likely to open any time soon.
“I think, best case scenario, you’re going to have marijuana available legally [in] January,” Senate President Steve Sweeney told reporters after a voting session on Thursday. “I’ve got to tell you guys, honest to God, the bill isn’t finished.”
Sweeney, Gov. Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin reached a consensus late last week on how New Jersey’s recreational cannabis industry would be taxed and regulated, clearing away two of the largest obstacles that had impeded discussions on legalization.
Even so, significant elements of the legalization bill, including the size of the tax local governments could impose on sales, haven’t been finalized. The most recent version of the legislation NJ S2703 (18R), holds the local excise tax at 2 percent. Local government leaders, including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities say they’d like to carve out as much as 5 percent of the gross proceeds.
On Thursday, Sweeney said the state would absorb whatever costs local governments incur to train law enforcement officers on drug recognition and enforcement methods, which he estimated would account for around a single percentage point of cannabis-related tax revenues.