Is New Jersey More Likely to Legalize Marijuana with Phil Murphy as Governor?
TRENTON, N.J. - Democrat Phil Murphy will succeed Republican Chris Christie as the governor of New Jersey. Murphy won the election Tuesday, beating out Republican Kim Guadagno, Christie’s Lieutenant Governor. Murphy said that he would legalize recreational marijuana in the state during his campaign and said that he would sign legislation once it hit his desk.
Governor-elect Murphy said in his primary victory speech last June that “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana. And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
In June of last year, State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-NJ) introduced a bill to legalize marijuana, but Republican Governor Chris Christie blocked any hope of it passing, saying that weed is poison and revenue from marijuana is blood money for crazy liberals.
Murphy, who used to be an executive on Wall Street and an ambassador to Germany, plans to use the estimated $300 million revenue from legalizing adult-use cannabis for funding education and employee pensions. Legislatures aren’t wasting any time, either. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney wants a vote on a draft of the bill written last May to be approved within 100 days of Murphy’s inauguration.
Sales of recreational marijuana could be as soon as the later part of 2018 if new legislation is passed rapidly and dispensaries that are already selling medical marijuana also cater to adult-use consumers. It will be longer for new retailers to get established in the market and to navigate regulations.
Recommendations from a New Jersey study by the New Jersey Policy Perspective and United for Marijuana Reform are to start with a 5 percent sales tax on marijuana during year one. During the second year, it could be raised to 15 percent and raised again to 25 percent in the third year. Starting with lower taxes serves as an incentive to bring in sales from the illegal market, according to the study. "Lawmakers should set a tax rate that promotes public safety and keeps participation in the illegal market as low as possible after legalization." If New Jersey legalizes adult-use marijuana, it will be the 9th state to make recreational marijuana legal in the country.
Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, California.