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Marijuana legalization could potentially happen before the end of the year in New Jersey. 

Members of the state legislature in New Jersey took an important step toward legalizing recreational marijuana this week, although legalization might still be months away in the Garden State. 

On Monday (Nov. 26) lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly budget committees approved a bill which would legalize recreational cannabis. That allows the bill to move forward to a vote in the full Senate and Assembly, clearing the way for recreational marijuana legalization potentially as soon as Dec. 17, the next time the full assembly will meet, according to NJ.com.

However, most agree that it’s more likely that legalization will not take place until next year.

As it is now, the bill would legalize possession and personal use of less than one ounce of weed for people 21 and older. The bill calls for a 12% state tax and a 2% excise tax that may apply to towns with marijuana businesses. In addition, the bill calls for an electronic system to speed up the expungement of low-level marijuana convictions.

Some details of the bill, including the rate at which cannabis will be taxed, and how the state will handle the criminal records of people who have marijuana-related offenses, still have to be worked out.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy campaigned in part on a promise to legalize marijuana in 2018. “I am committed to working with you to get this passed this year,” he said in March. 

However, Murphy would like cannabis taxed at a higher rate, and said that he is not sure whether he’ll sign the bill in its current form. “It’s too early to tell,” he said this week. “We haven’t commented on specifics, but I am very happy that this is moving.”

Other lawmakers are concerned that the bill does not address racial disparities in enforcing marijuana laws. 

“This is still being sold under the auspices of social justice, but it’s about money,” said state Sen. Ron Rice, a Democrat who opposes legalization. “It’s not about social justice. It’s about money for white investors. It’s a slap in the face to people like me and people of color.”

The bill also leaves some gray areas. Although it would allow possession and personal use, growing weed will remain illegal and it could take up to a year to get the recreational market functioning, according to NJ.com. However, existing medical facilities could begin selling recreational cannabis sooner. 

View the original article at thefix.com

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