New Jersey lawmakers passed a measure Thursday setting up a recreational marijuana marketplace, sending the legislation to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the bill.
The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the bill during remote sessions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation now goes to Murphy, who along with lawmakers reached an agreement on the legislation earlier this month.
He’s expected to to sign the bill, though it’s unclear when.
New Jersey joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia with legal recreational marijuana.
Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November allowing for recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The amendment takes effect Jan. 1. New Jersey voted for cannabis in last month’s election along with Arizona, Montana and South Dakota.
Despite the strong support from voters, lawmakers passed the bill on comparatively narrow margins: 49-24 with six abstentions in the Assembly, where 41 votes are needed, and 23-17 in the Senate, where 21 votes are needed.
If enacted, the legislation sets out a timetable that could see recreational cannabis available in New Jersey in about six months.
The 200-plus-page legislation is a thicket of technical detail that is being closely watched by lobbyists and businesses interested in opening shop in New Jersey.
For consumers, the legislation means cannabis will be subject to the state’s 6.625% sales tax, with 70% of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests.
Towns will also have the option to levy a tax of up to 2%.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be able to levy an excise tax, the amount of which will depend on the cost per ounce of cannabis. There will be four levels of tax under the bill, so if cannabis is $350 or more, the tax per ounce will be $10. That rises to $60 per ounce if the retail price of the product is less than $250.
Another part of the bill that resulted from lawmaker negotiations is a limit on the number of licenses for cultivators. They will be set at 37 for two years. The state Senate was pushing for no limits, but the Assembly wanted the caps.
Lawmakers are also considering a bill Thursday to decriminalize marijuana, a measure made necessary because the state’s laws make possession a crime, despite the voter-approved amendment.
Among other things, that measure would permit carrying up to 6 ounces of cannabis.
Reporting by the Associated Press.