Although Governor Chris Christie (R) is strongly opposed to legalizing Marijuana (arguing that it is a “gateway” drug despite the fact that it has been scientifically proven that Marijuana usage has health benefits) the State Senate has begun discussions on how to regulate the Marijuana industry in New Jersey provided that it is legalized. State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has recently sponsored a bill that legalizes marijuana possession and sale by adults 21 and older. Scutari’s bill includes several other provisions such as decriminalizing Marijuana possession of up to 50 grams immediately, creates a Division of Marijuana Enforcement in the state Attorney General’s Office which would create the rules used to govern the legal market of growers and sellers, and imposes a tax on Marijuana sales at 7% for the first year.
Thus far, the bill legalizing Marijuana has attracted its share of both supporters and opponents. Organizations supporting the bill include New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform and various civil rights leaders who argue that existing drug enforcement laws are draconian and disproportionately affect minorities and the most vulnerable members of society. Additionally, Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy supports legalization of Marijuana. Opponents to the change in New Jersey drug policy have been relatively silent, though it is expected that most opposition comes from the pharmaceutical industry and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Because of the fact that a majority of New Jersey residents support the legalization of Marijuana, it is expected that the Senate bill will likely be passed and signed into law assuming that the Democratic Party wins this year’s gubernatorial election.