New Jersey was already widely expected to become the next U.S. state to legalize the use of recreational cannabis, but new developments suggest prohibition could end even sooner than proponents had previously hoped.
State Senate president Stephen Sweeney will hold a legislative services committee hearing and vote on a legalization bill on Monday morning (Nov. 26), despite previous reports suggesting such a poll would not occur until 2019. From there, the bill that would legalize and regulate cannabis for use by those aged 21 and older at a 12 per cent tax rate, would require majority support of the full State Assembly and State Senate before reaching the governor’s office.
Phil Murphy, who won the New Jersey governor’s race in 2017 and took office earlier this year, campaigned in part on a pledge to legalize recreational cannabis. His predecessor, Chris Christie, was vehemently opposed to legalization, at one point suggesting publicly that such a course of action was “beyond stupidity.”
“Governor Murphy remains committed to legalizing adult-use marijuana,” Alyana Alfaro, Mr. Murphy’s deputy press secretary, told Cannabis Professional. “The governor is committed to working with the legislature to legalize adult-use marijuana the right way, one that makes the state fairer, prioritizes the safety of New Jersey residents and ensures that some of the economic benefits go to the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.”
While some obstacles remain – state assemblyman and former police officer Ronald Rice, for example, has been vocally opposed to legalization without moving to decriminalize cannabis possession first – New Jersey represents a tremendously lucrative market for the industry.
According to research firm BDS Analytics, medical demand alone for cannabis in New Jersey is expected to surpass 61 million pounds by 2022, while no data projections currently exist for recreational demand. For perspective, BDS expects Michigan, a state with a similar population to New Jersey that legalized recreational cannabis use earlier this month, to require nearly 150 million pounds of non-medical cannabis by 2022.