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Why the Marijuana Legalization Vote Got Delayed in New Jersey

It was going to lose by one vote.

By Sam Wood

It was going to lose by one vote.

New Jersey lawmakers today pulled a bill to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use from their voting agenda after it became clear it would lose by a razor thin margin.

Legislators could reconsider the measure in June, but it's likely that it will languish until December.

According to a Monmouth University poll, 62 percent of voters in the Garden State support a law that would permit small amounts of cannabis for adult recreational use.

If the measure had succeeded, Gov. Murphy had promised to sign it and New Jersey would have joined 10 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing adult use. Sales, however, could not have begun until regulations were written -- and that, and the permitting process, would have taken up to another year.

Separate pieces of legislation would have cleared convictions for minor marijuana convictions and expand the state's medical marijuana program. Here is an overview of the measure:

What the bill proposes:

The adult-use legalization act, formally known as Senate Bill 2703, would tax and control cannabis like alcohol. Cannabis products would be required to have warning labels that advise consumers about the dangers of impaired driving and health risks.

A five-member commission would oversee the recreational program.

The commission would decide how many permits will be issued to sell or grow marijuana. The number could be in the hundreds. About 25 percent of permits would go to so-called "microbusinesses" as a way of encouraging mom-and-pops and providing consumers an alternative to Big Marijuana providers.

Anyone 21-and-over would be allowed to purchase a variety of cannabis products: flower (bud), vape pens and cartridges, resin, tinctures, and edibles. Marijuana could be consumed in private homes or in permitted consumption lounges similar to cigar bars, that is, cannabis cafes.

Home delivery would be allowed by licensed providers.

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at a flat rate of $42 an ounce.

Municipalities that host cultivators or manufacturers would collect revenue from a 2 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction. Municipalities that are home to a wholesaler would receive the revenue from a 1 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction, while municipalities that are home to a retailer would receive the revenue from a 3 percent tax on the product within their jurisdiction.

Advertising would be severely restricted. Messages must be well-targeted so that at least 71 percent of the audience is 21 or older. TV and radio ads for cannabis could air only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

What the bill won't do:

Home cultivation would remain prohibited.

Smoking in public would not be allowed.

No guarantees of lower prices.

Arrests for possession would not stop immediately.

(c)2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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