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New Jersey Legalized Recreational Cannabis — Now What?

By Daniel Shortt, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

While it may be easy to forecast NJ’s cannabis market from a financial perspective, things get a little hazy when trying to predict the market from a regulatory perspective.

On November 3, 2020, New Jersey voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to legalize recreational marijuana. New Jersey was one of five states to legalize marijuana on Election Night, joining Arizona, Montana, Mississippi (medical only), and South Dakota.

Of these five states, New Jersey is the largest by population and it borders New York, which has not legalized recreational marijuana. This creates a huge economic opportunity in New Jersey as it is poised to collect revenue from sales to New Jersey residents and to nearby New Yorkers who will venture to New Jersey as cannabis tourists.

While it may be easy to forecast New Jersey’s cannabis market from a financial perspective, things get a little hazy in trying to predict the market from a regulatory perspective. That’s because New Jersey lawmakers still must figure out how to legalize cannabis. This raises serious questions about who should benefit from legalization given the racially disparate impact of drug laws in the past. According to a report released in April 2020 by the ACLU, 2018 arrest statistics show that “Black people were arrested for marijuana at a rate 3.45 times higher than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage.”

Following the report, ACLU New Jersey’s Policy Director commented that, “the Garden State’s path forward must include legalizing cannabis in a way that centers racial justice, including expungement of records and creating an industry with opportunities for those hit hardest by the disastrous war on drugs.” These issues have come to the forefront as New Jersey determines how to handle legalized cannabis.

There is a lot to cover, so let’s start with the actual question posed to voters. The Ballot Language New Jersey Public Question 1 appeared on the ballot as follows:

 

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis”?

Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market.

Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.

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