New Jersey marijuana legalization face setbacks once again

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More bureaucracy stands in the way, but is that necessarily bad?

Though we always knew that Phil Murphy’s promise to legalize weed in New jersey within his first 100 days in office was ambitious, the delays that have built up in passing a bill to do it have just gotten even longer. It’s now looking like it will be closer to the end of the year before we see anything finalized or signed.

Some proponents of legalization don’t see this as such a bad thing, however. As the bill’s timeline gets drawn out, so does the bill itself, with added features like expungement of records for low-level marijuana offenders and the leg up it would give small businesses who want to enter the cannabis space. Had there been no delays, social clubs wouldn’t be a possibility either.

Even if it does take until December to sign a bill into law, it looks like it’s a sure thing and shouldn’t take any longer than that. Those are very good things for marijuana advocates across the state and country who have been fighting long and hard to keep people out of jail for possessing cannabis.

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Politico recently reported that Governor Murphy “balked” at the idea of a 10 percent sales tax, which would be the lowest in the nation, tied with Nevada. Apparently, Murphy sees 25 percent as a closer number to what the tax rate should be. While tax dollars are one of the benefits states enjoy when cannabis is legalized, it’s still important to make sure marijuana is affordable to those who need it most, like senior citizens, vets, and the very infirmed.

Still, those with ailments will be able to utilize the medical marijuana program, but it’s a program that wasn’t built on trust to begin with. The medical cannabis program was started under Chris Christie, who was loathe to implement the law and did everything he could to keep it from prospering. Murphy has done a lot to expand the medical law and make it more accessible, but many people remain gun-shy and await legalization.

“I’m hoping we have this tied up by the end of the year, perhaps initial votes in the next month,” Senator Scutari said after a legislative hearing on Monday. “It’s a complicated issue. We’re starting from the ground up. The longer it’s gone on, the better I think it is.”

Scutari also allowed for the fact that lawmakers aren’t likely to make a loose August deadline, originally set by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, which would put forth a legalization bill by September’s end. The bill has gone up from 71 to 121 pages since that initial August prediction and it has yet to be publicly released.

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