A week after New Jerseyans voted to legalize cannabis, Gov. Phil Murphy and state lawmakers are at odds over legislation that would allow the state to become the only adult use market between Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts.
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee advanced the legalization bill, NJ S21 (20R) / NJ A21 (20R), after roughly six hours of cumulative testimony. The measure was introduced and placed on the legislative fast track last week, just days after two-thirds of the state’s voters backed a ballot question that amended the state’s constitution to legalize the sale and use of cannabis.
While the state’s leading Democrats have all said they’d like to move enabling legislation as quickly as possible — the drug will remain illegal until they do — Murphy, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney aren’t on the same page when it comes to cannabis tax policy.
Coughlin issued a statement Monday afternoon calling for an “an additional user fee on cannabis consumers.” That could potentially violate the constitutional amendment, which caps retail taxes on cannabis sales at 6.625 percent, the current state sales tax. Local governments can impose an additional 2 percent tax on all cannabis transactions, including wholesale and cultivation-related transactions.
Murphy praised Coughlin’s position during his regular Covid-19 press conference on Monday, noting that he has supported an excise tax, albeit at the cultivation level, “from day one.” The ballot question’s tax language only referred to retail sales and local taxes.
Shortly after Murphy’s press conference, Sweeney issued a joint statement with lead sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) and Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), drawing a line in the