Legislation to Watch: New Jersey Makes a Push toward Legalization (and other state developments)

On Monday, New Jersey legislators voted in favor of a measure that would both legalize marijuana and expunge past marijuana convictions. Many industry stakeholders were relieved last week, when Gov. Phil Murphy and Assembly leaders announced that they had reached an agreement on the proposed bill following months of intense negotiations.

Approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill is expected to be put on the floor for a final vote next week on March 25. If passed, the Garden State will become the 11th state to legalize adult-use cannabis. Broadly, the measure legalizes the possession, use and purchase of marijuana and establishes a proto- regulatory regime not unlike what we have seen in Massachusetts. It calls for the establishment a five-member commission “to oversee the development, regulation and enforcement of activities associated with the personal use of cannabis,” according to the NJ Assembly Democrats.

The bill, among other things:

  • Permits municipalities to collect up to a 3% tax from cannabis retailers in their jurisdiction, 2% from growers and processors and 1% from wholesalers;
  • Provides for conditional licensing which would allow time for potential license holders to obtain financing;
  • Enshrines the right of local jurisdictions to ban cannabis businesses;
  • Allows for cannabis delivery services;
  • Dismisses all pending cannabis convictions of possession up to five pounds;
  • Prevents employers from considering past cannabis convictions during the hiring process;
  • Calls for the development of an expungement process in conjunction with the New Jersey Supreme Court;
  • Sets up a task force to study the impact of cannabis use on drivers.
  • Establishes a subcommittee to encourage minorities, women, disabled veterans and small-business entrepreneurs to get involved in the cannabis industry.

While the New Jersey bill is in no way certain to pass floor, many in the industry are hopeful as it enjoys broad support. Additionally, there have been several notable legislative developments in recent weeks. Here are a few of them to watch for:

Vermont

Last month, the Vermont state Senate approved a bill which would establish a regulated and taxed system for cannabis retail sales. If enacted, 54 would establish a Cannabis Control Board which would govern the licensing process. (The use of recreational cannabis is already legal in Vermont).

New Hampshire

Last month, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed (HB 481) a measure to legalize the possession, use, and purchase of cannabis from licensed retailers. Pursuant to the bill, governor-appointed commission would be charged with issuing licenses for commercial cultivators, product manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers.

Hawaii

On Tuesday, March 19, lawmakers voted in favor of a bill to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. The measure would also establish a marijuana evaluation task force to examine other states’ adult-use laws, and make recommendations on amending marijuana use penalties in the State.

Florida

On Monday, March 18, the Governor of Florida signed legislation overturn a statewide ban on smoking cannabis. Consequently, the state’s medical marijuana businesses are expect to see tens of millions of dollars in additional sales. With the smoking prohibition, legalization advocates in the state have their sights set on a ballot initiative in 2022.

New Mexico

Last month, legislators voted to advance a far-reaching cannabis legalization bill out of committee. If passed, the bill would allow possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and up to 16 grams of marijuana extracts, permit the cultivation of up to six plants for personal use, and establish a regulated commercial cannabis market. The bill would also expunge the records of those with certain prior marijuana-related convictions.