TRENTON – Moving forward on legalization of the adult use cannabis after hearing from communities and all potential stakeholders throughout New Jersey, the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday approved measure A-11 that would set new, unprecedented regulation in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.
Currently Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have legalized the adult-use of cannabis that permits the cultivation and sale of cannabis establishing regulated revenue producing markets. Vermont and Washington D.C. allow for growing but prohibit the sale of cannabis.
If the bill is enacted, New Jersey would become only the second state in the country to set regulations for cannabis as an act of the legislature.
“There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). ‘I became interested in legalization due to the inequalities in the enforcement of cannabis laws and there long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color.
“It is time we listen to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and take a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. Although this aims to be a long road ahead of us, this bill is the first step.”
The bill (A-11), named the NJ Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Modernization Act, would legalize for persons 21 years of age or older the possession and personal use of cannabis in the amount of one ounce or less or the equivalent of one ounce or less of cannabis infused product in solid, liquid or concentrate form. The measure also establishes an expungement relief process for arrests under the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.
“Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than their white counterparts which has disenfranchised a number of residents and specific communities for far too long,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component to cannabis legalization is how we address these social justice concerns as we lay a new path for personal use in New Jersey. This is a long time coming to the state and expungement consideration is a key part of the regulations suggested under this bill.”
New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests constituted three out of five drug arrests also in 2012.
The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.
"As a prime sponsor, it was important to ensure the legislation included real enterprising opportunity paired with decriminalization and expungement for the minority population that has been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana. The bill includes diversity and economic development opportunities for start-up and existing minority businesses to flourish through participation in this new emerging multi-billion dollar market. This, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission which requires diversity, was pivotal to include," said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex). “In addition to legalization being a clear revenue generator for the State, the social justice and diversity portion was imperative.”
“This is possibly the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission and even more possibly, since the prohibition era,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “The components of this bill listen to New Jersey residents who are not happy with the status quo and would like to move the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis for medical use and discreet personal use. This bill is the start of the process.”
Highlights of the legislation include:
- Establishes a Five-Member Commission to oversee the development, regulation and enforcement of activities associated with the personal use of cannabis, as well as for medical.
- Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the products contents.
- Reduces burden on court system The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.
- Creates Jobs, Economic Driver Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.
- Opens the job market to more residents By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.
- Promotes Social Equity Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities and NJ veterans a seat at the table.
- Takes Action for Social Justice Includes additional expungement guidelines that address
- Sets New Jersey apart as leader in the tri-state area, country The reality is New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have already begun to consider and take action.
The legislation was one of three bills considered by the joint meeting of the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee.