NJ to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Next Week, as PA Proposes Recreational Bill
By Aaron Kesel
According to Reddit /r/cannabis, two neighboring states this week in the U.S — New Jersey and PA — have had cannabis legislation action in favor of legalizing marijuana.
“Colorado has been a success. The tax revenue it putting money into the schools, the healthcare system,” Greg Cox of Lancaster, Pensylvania told WNEP ABC 16. “If the budget is tight these days, why not make it legal to get the tax revenue?”
New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate committees voted in favor of companion bills that would legalize marijuana and provide for the expungement of prior cannabis convictions, Marijuana Moment reported.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 6-1, with two abstentions, to advance the bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved its own version of the legalization legislation which resulted in a 6-4 vote, with one abstention.
Assembly and Senate committees also approved separate companion bills to amend requirements to qualify for medical cannabis in the state. Another piece of legislation was also passed by both committees that would change the procedure for expunging criminal records.
Now the bill goes off for one final vote on the NJ Senate floor where the full Senate and Assembly must approve the measure before NJ Gov. Phil Murphy (who is pro-legalization) can sign it, NJ.com reported.
“This legislation is critically important as we move toward legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey,” Assembly member Jamel Holley (D), who sponsored the expungement bill, said in a press release. “Without this bill, many residents would continue to be affected by the criminalization of small amounts marijuana as a result of prior convictions long after the laws change.”
If passed, the law would allow adults 21 and older to possess, consume and purchase a certain amount of cannabis as restricted by the bill.
Going forward, a five-member commission would be formed and held responsible for studying the effects of legalization as well as assuring social equity in the marijuana industry. The regulatory commission would also be put in charge of approving licenses for the local cannabis industry including cultivators, processors, wholesalers and retailers.
Marijuana deliveries and social consumption sites would be approved; however, home cultivation would be prohibited if the law passes.
“Today’s votes are an important step toward legalizing adult-use marijuana in New Jersey. Although this bill is not perfect, we greatly appreciate the changes that the sponsors of the legislation have made based on the recommendations of advocates,” Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a press release. “While we are encouraged by the inclusion of provisions that our coalition has advocated for – such as expanded expungement – to better address fairness and equity, we are disappointed that there is no provision that allocates tax revenue generated by marijuana sales back to the communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition.”
Further, If the bill passes, it gives regulators about six months to set up the full rules and regulations on the industry. It then gives another six months for the commission to start allowing sales of marijuana throughout the state.
Lawmakers have also expressed there will be a $42 tax on each ounce of marijuana grown in the state. The tax would be imposed on the growers, not the buyers, but would be passed down to consumers in the form of how much each ounce would cost.
Municipalities would then be able to claim some of the revenue, according to the statement from lawmakers. Towns that have marijuana stores would be able to impose up to a 3 percent tax on all items sold, while towns that have growers could charge up to a 2 percent tax and towns with wholesalers could charge at least 1 percent of tax.
It’s worth noting that towns banning marijuana businesses would not get any tax revenue that is accumulated from the marijuana industry.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey’s neighboring state of Pennsylvania, lawmakers have proposed a marijuana recreational bill. Unlike NJ’s bill, it would allow people to grow up to six of their own plants, something that NJ opted to vote against.
However, similar New Jersey, it would also enable expunging or erasing marijuana-related convictions from citizens’ records.
Marijuana is now legal for medical purposes in 33 states and as a recreational drug in 10 out of the 50 states. Meanwhile, marijuana remains illegal federally; however, the 2018 Farm bill slightly legalized the other industry hemp when President Donald Trump signed what’s being deemed “the Farm Bill of 2018” into law right before Christmas of last year on December 20th, 2018.
The Farm Bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who announced that he would propose the legislation alongside Senator Rand Paul to legalize hemp by removing it from the list of controlled substances, where cannabis sits alongside psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA, and heroin. The bill would also offer “full protection for individual farmers as well as the interstate commerce of U.S. grown and manufactured hemp products; normalize finance, banking, insurance, and other business proceedings for the hemp industry; advance research opportunities; ensure access to public water rights for hemp farmers; and protect the increasing and perhaps unlimited variety of hemp-derived products by promulgating a ‘whole plant’ definition of Hemp.”
It’s “an $867 billion, five-year spending bill that funds agricultural, nutrition and other federal programs — also loosened some federal restrictions on cannabis. It legalized hemp by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act while preserving the FDA’s authority to regulate the products,” CNBC reported.
The FDA currently prohibits companies from adding CBD and THC to food, drinks, and supplements. The agency also forbids manufacturers and retailers from making any therapeutic claims about their products. It also restrains the sale of food, supplements and other products containing CBD across state lines at its current state of laws.
However, recently resigned FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb even stated that the agency is looking for “pathways” to legalize the sale of CBD oil and other cannabis-derived compounds in food, beverages, and supplements.
“We recognize the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds could offer and acknowledge the significant interest in these possibilities,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “We’re committed to pursuing an efficient regulatory framework for allowing product developers that meet the requirements under our authorities to lawfully market these types of products.”
Activist Post previously wrote that several restaurants are suddenly offering cannabidiol (CBD) infused snacks and drinks; however, according to several state regulators, selling them is illegal.
CBD oil is derived as a powerful ingredient reaped from the hemp plant. Many may find it shocking to learn that CBD is similar to a compound that our bodies produce naturally, and from birth, called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids aren’t just found in the cannabis plant, they’re also naturally occurring in other plants in nature, they are just found at a higher potency in cannabis.
CBD and marijuana has shown promise as a treatment for conditions like epilepsy and anxiety in early research. Although more research is needed into CBD oil and marijuana and its effects, much of the studies have been positive. So much so that there are now colleges adding cannabis to their curriculum, teaching on both the hemp and cannabis industries as Activist Post reported last week.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.