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NJ Lawmakers Advance Bill Legalizing Marijuana

November 26, 2018 - 6:06 pm

TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880/AP) – New Jersey legislators advanced a measure to legalize recreational cannabis on Monday.

A joint Democrat-led Assembly and Senate committee voted to send the legislation for a floor vote after more than four hours of debate in a standing-room-only crowd.

The bill, which was unveiled last week, legalizes an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over, sets up a five-person cannabis commission and taxes cannabis at 12 percent. That includes the 6.625 percent sales tax. The draft also allows towns and cities to apply for up to a 2 percent tax on cannabis.

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“When we have morality police attempting to tell people what they can and cannot do, which it doesn’t harm anyone else, you’ve got problems. That’s what prohibition essentially created when alcohol had it and for the last hundred years that marijuana has had it,” said New Jersey State Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

The ACLU was among the groups to show up in Trenton pushing for legalization.

“We have cities that have been economically devastated as a result of marijuana prohibition. You know, if you're black in New Jersey you're three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than if you're white,” said ACLU-NJ’s executive director Amol Sinha.

Lawmakers dropped an earlier proposal to phase in a higher rate over five years from 7 percent to 25 percent.

People would be able to light up in public-designated areas, like with cigarettes.

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There would also be an opportunity for those charged or convicted on marijuana-related offenses to apply to have those offenses thrown out.

A full vote could be set for next month.

Gov. Phil Murphy supports legalization, and in recent weeks some lawmakers who were opposed or on the fence have indicated they’ll vote "Yes."

New Jersey could become the 11th state to legalize possession and use of marijuana.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)