New Jersey marijuana bill angers those who want ability to home grow

A state senator has introduced a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey that faces an uphill battle, not surprisingly from Gov. Chris Christie, but also from cannabis activists, who are upset the measure wouldn’t allow for home cultivation of cannabis, and over the high tax rate imposed.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Colorado to see how legalization works last fall, and told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he knows his bill has no chance to become law until after Christie’s term ends in January. But Scutari said he wants to get the bill out there in order to “educate lawmakers” and win support by the time the next governor is in office, the Inquirer reports.

Roseanne Scotti,  senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance in New Jersey, bashed the proposal, calling it a “bad bill,” that is “very skewed to the marijuana industry, people who come in and get licenses and make more money, and that’s not right.”

Cannabis activist Ricardo Rivera, who runs the Tuffy’s Fight Foundation for Epilepsy named after his daughter Tatyana aka Tuffy, has recently been working to decriminalize marijuana possession in the city of Camden. Rivera is upset that patient caregivers who might grow one cannabis plant could lose their freedom and their family while “The state of New Jersey can grow unlimited amounts and tax it.

Rivera said a better bill was actually introduced last year by Republican Assemblyman Patrick Carroll. That bill would allow home grow, allow marijuana to be purchased in many more locations and not contain any additional taxes outside of the standard New Jersey sales tax. That bill died in committee but it could potentially be reintroduced.

Scutari’s bill doesn’t allow home grow and does not stipulate that taxes from marijuana sales would benefit the communities that have been most affected by drug arrests and incarceration, Scotti told the Inquirer. Meanwhile, Scutari, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said he is open to changes. He cites problems with homegrown marijuana being sold on the blackmarket in Colorado as a reason it was omitted, according to the Inquirer.

Under his bill, New Jerseyans 21 and over could possess one ounce of cannabis, or one pound of solids, such as edibles, 72 ounces of liquid cannabis tincture or 7 grams of concentrate aka wax.

Taxes would be 7 percent initially, but rise to 25 percent over five years. Under the bill, taxes on marijuana sales would start at 7 percent and rise to 25 percent over five years.  Scutari said he expected legalization would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes for the Garden State.

New Jersey currently has five medical marijuana dispensaries, each of which would be allowed immediately to apply for licenses under the recreational retail system if the bill passes.

Photo: Ricardo Rivera and Tuffy greet a crowd at a Philly Smoke Session event Summer 2016 Photo: Mike Whiter

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