New Jersey: Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) vehemently voted “No” in the Senate Budget Committee session on the enabling legislation for the adult use marijuana marketplace.
Senator O’Scanlon voted ‘no’ on the enabling legislation for the adult use marijuana marketplace, stating the bill does not deliver what the voters approved earlier this month.
“To the more than 67 percent of voters that recently voted yes to legalize adult use marijuana, I hear you, and I am fighting to honor your wishes. The bill before our committee yesterday does not do that,” O’Scanlon said. “We were still getting substantive amendments as we began the hearing – interpretation is all we have.”
O’Scanlon also raised concern that the proposed high tax rate would encourage illicit cannabis sales. This concern stems directly from the ballot question itself:
“Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.”
“Job 1 needs to be to squash the illegal market and the incentive that market has to incite crime and in pushing illegal drugs of all kinds – laced with God-knows-what – to our children. As we’ve seen in other states, keeping prices within market is a critical component of this mission. High taxes drive high prices … which perpetuate thriving illicit markets. The ballot question language is unambiguously clear that there should be a low tax rate and serious restrictions on our ability to tax the hell out of this product,” O’Scanlon continued.
“There is a consensus among cannabis industry experts, that an aggregate tax rate of 20 percent or less is needed to be competitive with the illicit market. The way the legislation currently reads, it could be interpreted as permitting a 60 percent tax. That’s nuts. The current form of this legislation would be a gift to an unregulated and illicit marketplace that we will come to regret.
“Additionally, on legislation as consequential as this, it is imperative that the Legislature and the public have the time to digest and comprehend the math and policy. We owe transparency and diligence to those that put us in office. For all these reasons and more, I felt obligated to vote no,” O’Scanlon concluded.