New Jersey Legislator Plants Seeds For Recreational Marijuana Legalization

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New Jersey lawmakers kicked off the new session by once again introducing legislation to legalize marijuana.

Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced the measure allowing the recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday, the same day the new session of the Democrat-led Legislature convened.

Incoming Democratic governor Phil Murphy campaigned on legalizing marijuana. GOP Gov. Chris Christie is a vocal opponent.

The legislation is identical to a measure introduced in the previous session that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and older. Scutari also introduced the bill in 2014.

The legislation would permit possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of a marijuana infused product in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, and seven grams of concentrate, but would prohibit home cultivation and consuming marijuana openly.

It would also permit the licensing of commercial marijuana grow operations and retail facilities within one year of the bill’s passage.

Other highlights include instituting strict regulations on the production and sale of marijuana, providing municipalities the ability to adopt ordinances governing the operation or prohibiting, and establishing a sales tax rate of 7 percent in the first year that escalates to 25 percent in the fifth year.

At the Shore, Asbury Park’s governing body says it supports recreational sales, while the leaders in Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township do not.

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor tells the Asbury Park Press he has no problem with medical or recreational marijuana if it’s legally dispensed and taxed. The city has not been approached by any companies interested in opening a dispensary.

Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township have introduced ordinances banning the sale, saying they want to preserve the family-oriented nature of their communities.

The medicinal use of marijuana is legal in the state but heavily regulated. The state Medicinal Marijuana Review panel voted last year to expand the program to include chronic plan related to a host of disorders and syndromes.

The current pending bill was introduced soon after the U.S. Justice Department last week overturned Obama administration guidelines that federal prosecutors shouldn’t interfere with states allowing people to use pot for medical and recreational uses.

At a substance abuse forum last year, Christie said legalizing marijuana would be “beyond stupid” during the ongoing opiate crisis.

“But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK. Baloney,” he said.

Murphy takes office on Tuesday.