LINDEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As more states make marijuana legal, New Jersey lawmakers are getting ready for a heated debate on the issue.
A vote on pot plans could happen soon, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported Tuesday.
The state senator who wrote the recreational marijuana bill in the Garden State says legalization may come as soon as January.
“We already have licensed facilities selling medical marijuana and part of bill is to allow them to sell legal marijuana to all those over 21 years of age, immediately upon signature. If they can certify that they have enough product to do it,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari said.
State committees will meet together for a hearing and are expected to vote on Monday. If approved, the legalization bill will be passed on to the Senate and then the Assembly and after that the governor’s desk.
It has been delayed as party leaders battle over how much the drug should be taxed. The current bill calls for “12 percent state and 2 percent local excise tax. So 14 percent. It will be one of the lowest tax rates in the nation,” Sen. Scutari said.
Almost every New Jersey resident CBS2’s Baker spoke to had the same question about the tax.
“Where’s the tax money going to go?” wondered Ken Pettis of Irvington.
“If they appropriate the funds correctly, I want to know how they are going to use it,” said Sterling’s Joe Staszczak.
Scutari estimates marijuana sales will generate $300 million to $500 million annually once its fully ramped up, and create thousands of jobs in farming distribution and sales, CBS2’s Baker reported.
“For most part. it will be in the general pot. There will be few line items that we believe are important. We want to put some money into addiction purposes and impaired driving enforcement,” the senator said.
Anti-drug advocate Peter Brown said he worries legalized marijuana for people 21 and older could still get into the hands of kids.
“They are not looking at the safety of our children, where a lot of these substances, these products are in the form of liquid, gummies and other edibles that are at risk of our children,” Brown said.
“People are ingesting, smoking, eating marijuana on a regular basis all throughout New Jersey. It has been happening for 100 years,” Sen. Scutari said in response. “This bill is not something that we’re suggesting to people you should go out and start ingesting and smoking marijuana. But it’s a recognition that people are already doing it.”
Scutari said the pot price will be set by the market. He wants it to be competitive enough to take out the black market.
The bill calls for marijuana business licenses to be rolled out gradually to gauge the interest.