Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the bill’s lead sponsor, called Monday’s signing “a new era of social justice.”
“Today, we’re taking a monumental step forward to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system, while building a promising new industry and standing on the right side of history,” Murphy said.
To do that, a new Cannabis Regulatory Commission will now be impaneled with broad oversight powers. It will create and enforce statutes that will govern the state’s marijuana marketplace. Those regulations will be required to be drawn up within six months. The commission will determine the amount of the taxes and fees imposed, while trying to make legal cannabis affordable and preferable over the illicit market. It will decide who will be granted the various licenses required to grow, develop and sell marijuana.
The new law requires that certain minority communities — those that have been most wounded by an ill-conceived and unjust war on drugs — receive preferential treatment with both tax revenue and licenses. They include some of the state’s largest cities, like Newark, New Brunswick and Jersey City as well as smaller ones like Salem City and Bridgeton in South Jersey.
But the commission will have to avoid the fate of the current medical marijuana industry, which is predominately run by large, white, out-of-state, vertically integrated corporations that charge twice the price of the black market.
The new law hopes to avoid that fate by eventually issuing “micro-permits” intended to provide opportunities for hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses to participate in the industry.