Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed in New Jersey Senate

Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed in New Jersey Senate

TRENTON, NJ —  Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) has filed a bill that would legalize cannabis in New Jersey and to create a taxed and regulated system like Colorado.

Last week Senator Scutari held a press conference announcing the bill, Senate Bill 1896, and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Scotch Plains) announced she would introduce matching companion legislation in the Assembly.

These bills are in addition to a bill in the State Assembly filed by Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Plains) that would put approval of marijuana legalization before voters.  This assembly bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, but would not provide a regulated system of retail sales or allow home cultivation of marijuana.

Senator Scutari’s bill goes beyond that and covers the taxation and regulation of possession, distribution and cultivation of marijuana.

Scutari’s bill calls for the legalization of possession of up an ounce of marijuana, transfer of up to an ounce between adults for no financial gain and the cultivation of up to 6 plants (only 3 mature).  The bill also allows for retail stores to be setup and for the formation of a division of Alcoholic Beverages and Marijuana Control.

Senate Bill 1896 also calls for  a tax to be established on marijuana.  This tax will be divided up in to 3 main sections:

  • 70% of all monies collected going to a Transportation Trust Fund Account and that money  will be used fix the state road infrastructure.  Scutari has coined this as “pot for pot-holes” tax.
  • 20% of the tax money collected would go to a “Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund”
  • Finally the last 10% of the tax money collected shall go to 43 programs addressing women’s health, family planning, postpartum depression awareness, smoking cessation, and HIV-awareness.

The bill also clearly states that sales tax is not allowed to be applied to medical marijuana.

In a shocking move, the board of trustees of the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association on Feb. 21 voted to endorse marijuana legalization, said its president, Jon-Henry Barr, who is municipal prosecutor in Kenilworth and Clark. This wasn’t a unanimous vote but it was overwhelmingly in support with seven in favor, 2 against and 1 abstaining.

The bill is vague in some areas and will need to be amended later on. The bill most likely wont be signed into law by Governor Christie anytime soon, but, says Senator Scutari, “He’s not going to be governor forever.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly said that he will not allow marijuana legalization or decriminalization while he is Governor.

The full version of Senator Nicholas Scutari’s marijuana legalization bill can be found here.

  • Edo Edo

    There is a lot of support for cannabis legalization in NJ politics (the state government craves new sources of revenue – especially sources that carry a 60%+ approval rating from voters). Though I’m still curious to know if there is enough support in the Senate and Assembly to override Christie’s veto so that the measure can be placed before voters. Now is the time for NJ citizens to call their state reps and demand that they support this measure so that VOTERS can decide for themselves and not leave it in Christie’s close minded hands…

    • Mike

      One would hope so. But politicians are infamously cautious about any controversial issue, even when it clearly has majority support, if they perceive it as something that could be used against them individually when running for re-election. With Big Money running attack ads, there is somewhat more substance to these fears than in the past when they were mostly theoretical.

      But this factor is one that we need to deal with as a movement at this point, because it’s the main thing holding back the final defeat of prohibition. We need to get out and support those who support us. And we need to make it clear that a political cost will be paid will be by those who do not support the anti-prohibition majority. Once politicians realize that they can LOSE the next election even more easily by being too cautious about legalization, it’s all downhill. Get them by the short-hairs and they will quickly fall in line.

    • GIJoe

      I don’t think we have enough currently, and possibly not 2/3s of democrats yet, but most major bills don’t pass the first round anyway. It’s good Scutari introduced this now so people can get used to it and work on the language, and at the very least we will have a good chance of passing it as soon as we get Christie out of office if not before.

      • Edo Edo

        Do I think there are enough politicians in the NJ state legislature that would legalize cannabis because it’s the right thing to do? No. However, there are varying motivations in the Senate and Assembly that would make the vote extremely interesting. The biggest factor is the unending quest for raising revenue in NJ. This is a motivator for a lot of Democrats who disagree with Christie’s push for tax cuts at the expense of some social and infrastructure programs. Other Democrats hate Christie to such degree that they’d support legalization only because Christie is against it (and their constituents would approve). There are also those on the Republican side that recognize a need for some more revenue for projects in their home districts (road work, prevention for harder drugs, etc.). They would like the new source of revenue, but don’t want to fall back on to raising taxes on small businesses, income tax, or sales tax (they are Republicans, after all…). Heck, the president of the Senate even praised Scutari for introducing the bill. This shows at least a moderate support overall (they have to be looking at the 60%+ approval rating from voters too).
        All in all, if it was put to a vote, I do think it has a decent chance of passing the Senate and Assembly. I don’t think there is enough support to override Christie’s veto. But passing the bill may be enough. For all his bluster, Christie faces a dilemma if the legislature passes this bill and he vetoes it. He has criticized the “big government / nanny state” philosophy on many other topics from gun control to union strength. Whether Christie likes it or not, prohibition of cannabis in the same type of big government intrusion that he has railed against in the past. If he has any type of presidential aspirations, he will have a much easier time explaining to Republican voters (in the primaries) that he allowed cannabis to be legal using “state’s rights” and “less government intrusion” explanations. The much harder sell would come during the general election when he has to explain to independent voters why he blocked people’s freedom of choice. Either way, I would enjoy Christie’s reaction when this bill reaches his desk. And don’t forget, he railed against marriage equality almost as much as legalized cannabis, and he finally stopped fighting that after awhile too…

  • ryan

    “Christie won’t be governor forever…”

  • Edo Edo

    Just for the record, in addition to my comment below, there are 40 senators (24 Democrats & 16 Republicans) and 80 members of the Assembly (48 Democrats & 32 Republicans). That means that 27 Senate votes and 54 Assembly votes would be needed to override Christie’s veto.
    I doubt there’s enough support to override a veto at this point, but as the man said, he won’t be governor forever.

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