NJ Politics Digest: Legislature Moves Legalized Marijuana Effort Ahead

A man holds a marijuana joint in his clenched fit during the DCMJ.org marijuana protest in front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday, April 24, 2017.

A man holds a marijuana joint in his clenched fit during the DCMJ.org marijuana protest in front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday, April 24, 2017. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

New Jersey is a step closer to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana after a joint legislative committee on Monday approved a plan to regulate and tax weed use.

The Senate budget committee and Assembly appropriations committee both approved the marijuana legalization measure on the same day that committees also approved plans to expand the state’s medical marijuana program and to make it easier to expunge criminal convictions for marijuana-related crimes.

But legalizing marijuana in the state is still far from a done deal. Senate President Steve Sweeney told The Record Monday that he won’t put the measure up for a vote in the upper house until it receives the endorsement from Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy and Sweeney have been at odds over how much the state should tax marijuana sales, with Sweeney pushing for a 12 percent rate and Murphy hoping for the state to take an even bigger bite.
Sweeney says the 12 percent rate — which would be one of the lowest in the country — is needed to discourage black market sales.

The bills must next be voted on by both houses in December, though it’s unclear if the measures have the support needed to gain full legislative approval.

Quote of the Day: “I believe in raising the minimum wage. I don’t believe in showboating and doing press conferences. If you want to get something done, then sit down with the principals and have a conversation,” — Senate President Steve Sweeney, on Gov. Phil Murphy’s calls for an increase in the state minimum wage.

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NJ Politics Digest: Legislature Moves Legalized Marijuana Effort Ahead