Legislation to Provide for Infrastructure Regulation of Recreational Cannabis Use Acted on After NJ Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Legalization Ballot Question Nov. 3
On November 3, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question, by roughly 67 percent, which asked to amend the State constitution to provide for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. Moving forward on the discussion of the over 200-page legislation to provide the infrastructure for cannabis regulation, the Assembly Federal Relations, and Oversight Reform Committee on Monday held a hearing and voted to advance A-21 that aims to set new, unprecedented guidelines in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.
The bill’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake, Angela McKnight, Joseph Danielsen, and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements on its advancement in the Legislature:
“This is the first step toward the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “So much time, effort, and thought have gone into this bill and although it is not perfect, today is the first conversation for what I believe will produce a stronger piece of legislation with a focused eye toward social justice and equity. Once the legislation is enacted, it will be the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity, social justice for marijuana possession, and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”
“With legalization comes an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities. We have the opportunity here to also right the wrongs in our society in regards to past criminal possession of cannabis. No matter where you stand in the legalized marijuana debate, there has been a clear understanding that minorities within our urban communities have been hit hardest in the so-called War on Drugs. During this entire campaign for legalization, there has been one united vocal stance: There was harm done in the past and it must be corrected.”
“Today is a great day in New Jersey as we begin this discussion. This legislation includes real, enterprising opportunities for New Jersey communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission that requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake (D-Essex). “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the legislation remains imperative.”
“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use. We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization. Most importantly, NJ voters want it.”
“This legislation has been a long time coming in our State. My committee is proud to have initiated the conversation on this issue important to our communities and mandated by New Jersey voters, “ said Assemblyman Danielsen (D-Somerset, Middlesex, who chairs the Assembly Federal Relations and Oversight Reform Committee led the discussion on the bill in today’s hearing. “Nearly 50 witnesses testified today in committee. Their input was welcomed and, as we move forward to get this bill to where it must be to help all communities, we will continue to listen and incorporate ideas. Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation. We cannot fairly, or effectively provide regulation without ensuring these communities stay at the forefront of the conversation.”
“New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey. Today, we have acted on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation and statewide stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades. This legislation also aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use. This hearing marks the first step toward a greater goal.”
A full copy of the legislation can be found here. Here are several key points of the bill:
- Personal Rights – Legalizing the consumption, transportation, and possession of cannabis for personal use by persons age 21 and older of up to one ounce. Public consumption would remain unlawful.
- 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 contents of the product.
- Reduces burden on the 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.
- Impact Zones – Impact Zones are select priority municipalities for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to issue licenses to residents in the Zones. There is established a 25% set-aside for applicants residing in these zones which were established based on four criteria: population size; marijuana arrests; crime index; and rate of unemployment.