After months of back-and-forth over marijuana legalization legislation, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and leaders in the NJ legislature claim to have reached a broad agreement. In a press release on March 12, 2019, the governor, alongside Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and others announced the text of a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use will be released “in the coming days.”
Lawmakers stated the bill will establish a system to expedite expungement of prior low-level marijuana convictions and also create a “virtual expungement process” that would prevent marijuana offenses from affecting education, housing, and occupational licensing.
“It will address enormous social injustice in our system,” Murphy said. “And while that appears to be under the justice category, it has enormous implications for both the individuals who are finally freed from this prior charge but also for the rest of us. The economic impact, the societal impact, not just on those individuals, but on the rest of us, is potentially enormous.”
A vote could come as soon as March 25, 2019.
Unless the final bill includes details that make the NJ expungement process faster and simpler, those with past marijuana convictions will still face significant hurdles. Firstly, the expungement process is complicated and includes multiple steps and mountains of paperwork—one single mistake can result in an application being denied. The state receives about 10,000 expungement applications per year, a number that is certain to rise dramatically once the bill is signed into law. While there are no specific data, it is estimated that only a small percentage of expungement applications are granted.
The governor and both state legislative chambers have favored legalization but tangled over details such as how to handle clearing records of marijuana convictions and how much to tax marijuana sales.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” Murphy said. “After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation.”
Murphy had initially called for a steeper tax rate than his counterparts in the legislature but settled on an agreement to tax cannabis by weight, rather than by price. Under the upcoming bill, there will be a $42 per ounce excise tax as well as additional local taxes for municipalities that opt to allow manufacturers, wholesalers, or retailers. The governor estimated an additional $60 million in tax revenue as a result, which was included in his 2020 budget proposal earlier this month.
If you or someone you love has been convicted of marijuana-related crimes or any other criminal offense in New Jersey, reach out to an experienced attorney to find out what your options are. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled defense and expungement attorneys with experience helping people put the mistakes of the past behind them. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.