A Long Road Toward Legalization of Marijuana in NJ

Brigantine Attorney, Paul Busco, wrote a thoughtful piece about the future of legal, adult-use marijuana. Here it is:

paul busco
Busco

Whatever your personal feelings on the subject, New Jersey is likely to approve the recreational use of marijuana by adults.

Statewide support stands at over 60 percent. Democrats control the Governor’s office, the state senate and the assembly. In fact, legalization is more than “likely” – it is going to happen.

But the question of “when” is less clear, and likely longer than it appeared just six months ago.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy campaigned, and was in part elected, on a platform and proposed budget that in eluded support for legalization of marijuana.

NJ Democrats pitched a united, fast tracked position on legalization, which certainly helped Murphy in his election. It was no doubt, smart politics.

Since Murphy’s inauguration, however, it appears that the road toward legalization is going to be longer and probably bumpier than what was initially sold to voters.

And while support for legalization is high, there is disagreement among supporters regarding minimum purchase age, maximum purchase amount, pricing, home growing, licensure, tax rates, revenue distribution, to name just a few.

At this point in time, Governor Murphy doesn’t have the legislative support to pass a comprehensive bill on legalization.

However, there is no shortage of proposals. What is lacking is consensus, and perhaps growing doubt that the economic benefits will outweigh the societal costs.

The legislature has planned a number of studies to determine the impacts and projected revenues for the various proposals. I would anticipate that these studies will substantially delay an approval, which I suspect will not happen this year.

While delay costs taxpayers and impairs Murphy’s budget revenue, delay, in this instance, may be a good thing. Lawmakers should perform their due diligence, and not rush into passing legislation that is detrimental or piecemeal. They should use lessons learned from Colorado and Washington and elsewhere to guide the decision making process and determine what will work best for New Jersey.

We should aim to get it right, right out of the gate.

Paul Busco, Attorney at Law.

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Disclaimer: This column docs not purport to offer legal advice. You should contact an attorney at law for legal advice specific to your matter.