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N.J. takes up bill to decriminalize small-scale adult use of marijuana

cannabis-sativaBy Michael Booth, From New Jersey Law Journal

Legislation introduced in New Jersey Monday would legalize possession, cultivation and sale of small amounts of marijuana—if the bill isn’t snuffed out by the governor’s promised veto.

The measure’s sponsor says New Jersey should join Colorado and Washington State in ceasing to prosecute and starting to regulate and tax minor marijuana use.

“It’s time to update our archaic drug laws,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, said at a press conference Monday announcing the bill’s introduction.

Scutari, who is the municipal prosecutor for the city of Linden, said the decades-long battle to eradicate marijuana use has “failed miserably.”

“We have seen billions of dollars spent on enforcement, our streets become increasingly dangerous and the ability of countless people to get a job, go to college or buy a home hindered by criminal records from petty crimes,” he said.

The proposed bill would allow adults aged 21 and over to possess an ounce or less of marijuana and to cultivate up to six plants in an enclosed, locked space for personal use and not for sale.

Sale of marijuana would be regulated the same way the state regulates liquor sales. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control would be renamed the Division of Alcoholic Beverage and Marijuana Control with authority to issue retail-sales licenses.

Local governments would be allowed to ban by ordinance marijuana retail sales within their borders.

Marijuana sale would be taxed at 7 percent, which Scutari said could reap tens of millions of dollars per year for the state. His bill would dedicate 70 percent of those tax revenues to the Transportation Trust Fund, in view of the state’s failure to enact a gas tax hike.

The rest would be dedicated 20 percent to drug education programs and 10 percent to women’s health programs, each of which have suffered cuts.

PHOTO: Wikimedia

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