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Legalization Edges Closer In New Jersey, As New York Proposal Hits Snags

March 19, 2019

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and top state legislators recently announced that they have finalized a plan for legalizing recreational cannabis. Negotiators resolved their disagreement on tax rates by taxing by weight rather than value, settling on $42 per ounce of flower grown. The goal now becomes rallying the votes to pass final legislation on March 25, before the legislative session gets bogged down with other responsibilities. Estimates put support six votes short in the Senate and three short in the Assembly. Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin both said they think a vote on March 25 is likely, but stressed that it’s more important for the law to be structured properly than passed quickly.

Meanwhile, across the Hudson River, hope is fading for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana as part of the state budget this month. “There is a wide divide on marijuana,” Cuomo told reporters, according to AP. “I believe ultimately we can get there. I believe we must get there. I don’t believe we get there in two weeks.”

Key points of contention now include the level of power the state Office of Cannabis Management would hold, as Cuomo’s proposal “centralizes all the licensing, enforcement, and economic development functions in one entity.” This concern feeds into objections over a lack of guarantees for investment in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. The budget is due at the end of the month, with or without a consensus on cannabis. Failure to include it would push the issue to consideration at the end of the legislative session in June.—Danny Sullivan

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