N.J. governor, state Democrats say deal to legalize cannabis almost done
Gov. Murphy on legalizing marijuana
According to reports, legislators in New Jersey finally reached a deal on legalizing cannabis, hammering out details on taxation and regulation that were months in the making. NJ.com reported that Gov. Phil Murphy and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney came to a “deal in principle” that could see the Garden State legalize weed this spring.
The report, released early Friday morning, stated that the two sides agreed to a plan that would tax cannabis by the ounce, rather than a state sales tax that had been the crux of the debate for months now.
While NJ.com reported that state Sen. Nicholas Scutari refused to release details of the negotiations, he did tell the news outlet that the two sides were closer than ever to a deal.
“We don’t have a final deal," Scutari said, according to NJ.com. "There still are more details to be worked out, but the two sticking points [taxes and a commission regulating the industry], we are there. But we are not finalized.”
Murphy and legislators had fought over an independent regulatory commission, the idea of which, according to NJ.com Murphy disliked. As a compromise, Murphy will appoint three out of the five members of New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
As for the tax part of the deal, legislators hope that it will help the state avoid any problems should cannabis prices drop in the future, seeing as it would be a tax on weight and not on price. States such as Oregon have seen prices fall dramatically since legalizing cannabis.
“If the tax is $42 per ounce — which is reportedly the tax rate that’s on the table — it would stay the same whether the ounce cost $300 or $150 or even $50,” wrote NJ.com.
Still, now that a deal seems to be in place, the governor still needs the votes for the potential bill.
“We are counting on the governor to help us in the legislative process because we need help getting the votes,” Scutari told NJ.com.
New Jersey is in a race with its northeastern sister state New York to be the first to legalize cannabis and, hopefully, reap the early financial benefits from the process. Murphy pledged to do so as part of his campaign for governor, but progress stalled as legislators continued to nitpick over the details.
Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed hard and fast for legalization since his inauguration at the turn of the year. He made cannabis legalization a tentpole of his first 100 days, however, hammering out those details has proven to be difficult as well.
*Header image: Source: Phil Murphy for Governor