After many years of watching lawmakers in the Garden State struggle to legalize recreational cannabis, last week that all changed when the voting public did what their representatives couldn't, passing the amendment with a 2/3 majority at the ballot.
You can check out the legislation in detail here.
Despite the fact that this is news worth celebrating, there is no time to stand around patting each other on the back.
Marijuana is not legal for recreational purposes yet, and will not be until the laws actually go into effect on Jan. 1st, 2021. However, there is much work to be done before the new year.
None of the rules and regulations have been agreed on and the legal framework is basically nonexistent.
In order for the necessary steps to be completed on time, lawmakers will have to kick negotiations into high gear and do whatever is necessary to find common ground and ensure a successful future for adult use cannabis in New Jersey.
Why the hold up?
The same issues that plagued the amendment last year remain unresolved and are definitely going to take time to fix. Money. It's always about money.
In this case. the biggest impediment to forward progress is the fact that many believe the tax structure is inadequate and needs to be revised.
As laid out by the recently passed law, there will be a 6.25% tax assessed on retail cannabis purchases across the state, a number that some feel is too low.
Without an additional tax, the state will not be able to fund the social programs championed in the legislation, in fact, the state will not even be able to pay for the cost of implementing the adult use program, which includes the formation of new task forces to oversee and enforce the rules and regulations.
Those who oppose the idea of increasing the tax on retail marijuana believe that doing so would make it unaffordable to those most negatively impacted by its decades long prohibition, one of the main reasons it was legalized to begin with, setting the stage for what could be a really messy situation.
Hopefully, governors in neighboring states like Tom Wolf (Pennsylvania) and Andrew Cuomo (New York) are paying close attention and taking notes, because these are exactly the kind of issues they will encounter when they try to create their own adult use markets in the near future.
Governor Cuomo has already faced opposition in Albany over the allocation of cannabis related sales taxes, a hot issue that effectively sidelined recreational cannabis from becoming law in the last two years.
According to recent reports in the news, Cuomo has made no secret of his plans to include recreational marijuana in his January budget address for 2021.
For the past year, a coalition made up of east coast governors has been meeting to discuss the potential ramifications of legal cannabis within their jurisdictions.
What's the Solution?
The most important thing here is to make sure that nothing prevents the program from moving forward.
There are tens of thousands of people in New Jersey who have benefitted from the use of medical marijuana over the last few years and it's time to allow equal access to everyone else.
Hopefully, sanity and rational thinking will prevail and New Jersey can be a role model for the rest of the east coast.
These are no doubt exciting times for the 'budding' industry (no pun intended) and it has been a real treat watching it develop as cannabis legalization spreads across the country.