New Jersey residents will vote on legal pot in 2020 referendum

Mike Montone
May 15, 2019 - 1:56 pm
Marijuana

Photo by Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS/Sipa USA

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TRENTON, N.J. (1010 WINS/AP) -- The question of whether to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey will be left up to the people.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney announced on Wednesday, that a referendum on Election Day in 2020 will ask voters to legalize the drug by amending the state constitution.

In the meantime, state lawmakers are moving forward with bills to expand New Jersey's medical marijuana program and to expunge the records of some residents with past pot convictions.

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"It would have been best to move the adult use and medical expansion bills at the same time, but it is wrong to hold the medical and expungement bills hostage,'' he said.

Sweeney said the medical marijuana expansion would include increasing the number of dispensaries, which currently stands at six but is in the process of doubling, expanding the number of professional who can authorize its use and phasing out the state's sales tax on medical pot.

WEB EXTRA: Curious about legal pot in the Garden State? Checkout our High State Area series and get up to speed

He said a second measure aimed at wiping certain convicts' records clean would allow for the expungement of controlled dangerous substance convictions of the third or fourth degree.
 
Among the stumbling blocks to the bill that stalled out in March were that the measure would allow a fast track to expunge marijuana-related convictions for many people. Others worried that black communities in New Jersey could miss out on economic opportunities in a legal weed market. Others raised philosophical concerns with legalization.
 
New Jersey's bill sought a tax of $42 per ounce, setting up a five-member regulator commission and expediting expungements to people with marijuana-related offenses.
 
The bill would have permitted towns hosting retailers, growers, wholesalers and processors levy taxes as well, up to 3 percent in some cases.
 
Tax revenue would have gone into a fund for ``development, regulations and enforcement of cannabis activities,'' including paying for expungement costs.
 
The measure also called for an investigation on the influence of cannabis on driving and for funding drug-recognition experts for law enforcement.

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