A First-of-Its-Kind Recreational Marijuana Bill Was Just Introduced in New Jersey
The real surprise is what this bill wouldn’t legalize, if approved.
Sean Williams (TMFUltraLong) May 28, 2017 at 11:44AM
Considering how unpopular marijuana was with the public during the mid-1990s, it’s phenomenal to take a step back and witness just how rapidly pot’s presence has grown in the United States over the past 21 years.
Marveling marijuana’s expansion
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of medical cannabis for compassionate use. Since California, 27 additional states and Washington, D.C., have followed. Five new states legalized medical weed last year alone, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, which chose to do so entirely through the legislative process.
In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. Since then, six additional states have legalized recreational pot, too. If not for Arizona’s recreational weed initiative falling 2% short of passing in November, it would have been a clean sweep for pot initiatives this past election.
This expansion is founded upon a fundamental shift of opinion from the public (and to some degree legislators) on marijuana. According to a Gallup poll in 2016, 60% of respondents want to see cannabis legalized nationally, which compares to just 25% in 1995. This shift also allowed North American sales of legal weed (which includes Mexico and Canada, as well as recreational and medical sales) to jump 34% last year to $6.9 billion, per ArcView Market Research.
And this expansion could be far from done in North America. Our neighbors to the north are contemplating a bill to legalize recreational weed by the summer of 2018, while Mexico’s legislature recently passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana.
A first-of-its-kind recreational marijuana bill was just introduced
Within the U.S., a number of states could be readying for a run at recreational legalization in 2017 or 2018. However, one of the unlikeliest of candidates, New Jersey, just entered the picture in a big way.
A book detailing federal and state marijuana laws.
IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.
Last week, Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in The Garden State. Said Scutari, “It’s time to end the detrimental effect these archaic laws are having on our residents and our state.”
The move to introduce a recreational weed bill is a bit surprising given that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is one of the most ardent opponents of marijuana’s expansion. In fact, during his presidential campaign Christie alluded that federal law would have been reinstated had he won the Republican ticket and national election over the Democratic candidate. In other words, Christie would almost certainly reject a legalization initiative that gets to his desk, assuming approval in the state’s legislature.
But, Scutari also notes that he’s looking toward the future. New Jersey has a gubernatorial election this November, and plenty of Democrats are lined up in an attempt to unseat Christie. A majority of these leading candidates have voiced their willingness to legalize recreational pot if a measure were brought to their desk.
However, it’s not Scutari’s forward-thinking bill that makes it so unique — it’s what would (and wouldn’t) be legalized.
According to the bill, marijuana products would face a tax for five years ranging from 7% to 25%, and a special regulatory division known as the Division of Marijuana Enforcement would be created to oversee the industry. Adults ages 21 and over would be allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, along with 16 ounces of cannabis-infused edibles, 72 ounces of marijuana tinctures, drinks, and oils, and seven grams of concentrates.
A man in a hoodie holding a home-cultivated cannabis plant.
IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.
Now here’s the interesting component of this bill: home cultivation would not be allowed! If passed, it would make New Jersey the first state to legalize recreational marijuana without allowing at least some legal home cultivation.
But with Christie as governor, the chances of this bill passing into law in its current form are slim-to-none.