New Jersey lawmakers approved a resolution on Monday and voters will now see a referendum for marijuana legalization on the state’s 2020 ballot in November.
A supermajority of lawmakers voted in support of the measure with a vote of 24-16 in the Senate and 49-24 in the Assembly. In New Jersey, changing the state constitution through a referendum can be a challenge; the proposal must be approved with either a simple majority for two consecutive years or only once in the case of a three-fifths supermajority, like what took place Monday.
If passed by voters, the constitutional amendment would take effect on January 21, 2021 and would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older. Marijuana will be subject to the standard state sales tax as well as an additional 2% local tax issued at the discretion of local municipalities. Marijuana business license types and licensing details have not yet been detailed; a Cannabis Regulatory Commission would be formed and tasked with the responsibility of regulating the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana in the state.
While many had hoped to pass legalization legislation in 2019, efforts were ultimately derailed when they were unable to garner the needed support in the legislature.
Gov. Phil Murphy and governors from several other Northeastern states have attended conferences in the past to discuss preliminary agreements regarding unified plans for their states’ marijuana policies. It’s not yet clear how the referendum process could impact those discussions for both New Jersey and the other states involved.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said in November that he was prepared to attempt to gain support from lawmakers for the legalization proposal during the lame-duck legislative session that ends in mid-January. However, after lawmakers were unable to gather the necessary support, he affirmed that “the votes just aren’t there” to pass it thus moving forward with placing the issue in the hands of voters in November 2020.
“While this is an important step, the legislature’s action is bittersweet,” Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said of the referendum votes. “MPP preferred the comprehensive, 147-page legalization bill, which included robust social equity provisions and would have gone into effect much sooner. We urge the legislature not to let those important protections fall by the wayside.”
On Monday, lawmakers also approved legislation that would allow for an expedited expungement process for those with prior marijuana convictions. Comparable to when Gov. Murphy focused his efforts on refining the medical marijuana program in the state after legislation failed early this year, he is now also setting his sights on passing legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession.
It’s never too soon to begin preparing for future marijuana business opportunities in New Jersey. If recreational marijuana is legalized by voters in 2020, the state will need to hold an application process to license recreational marijuana businesses.
Download our New Jersey Business Application Guide and Checklist to learn all that will be involved in the application process. The roughly 50-page guide is designed to provide a detailed summary and checklist of all the action items you will need to complete prior to the submission of application — including financial planning, inventory control, real estate selection, team building activities, local lobbying and community efforts.