New Jersey has been coasting towards legal infrastructure since passing legal cannabis in the November election, but the state just hit a roadblock. The current cannabis legislation stalled this Monday because of differences between the senate and assembly bills

Things were looking good on Thursday of last week, when the legislation was passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, who approved with an 8-4 margin. However, the bill they passed had too many differences from the Senate committee bill, who wanted to remove a provision limiting grow licenses and add in some other changes. 

Now, it is up to sponsors of both bills in both houses to agree on the details of legal cannabis, in order for the bill to be able to advance. Only then, when the bill is worked out, can it advance and get signed by Governor Phil Murphy. Until there is total consensus, the bill will be delayed, and the voting session planned for next week won’t happen. 

“We are reviewing the Senate’s amendments,” Kevin McArdle, who represents the Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, says according to an official statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

Moving Cannabis Forward

There are many steps in the New Jersey legislative process to finalize a law that has been voted on. It can’t be added to the state constitution until it is signed by the governor, even though it passed in November, and it can’t be signed by the governor until both legislative houses agree. The bill is currently 216 pages and full of details to agree upon about the fledgling industry, and the clock is ticking, as the hope is to have legal cannabis up and running by January 1.  

“We have got to get this done by the end of the year,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who backed the bill, was quoted as saying during the hearing. “If we don’t, we’re going to run into a myriad of other problems.”

There are some things that both legislative houses agree on, including the need to find more ways to generate money for minority communities, and better protections for workers who use cannabis when they aren’t on the job. However, there are also many issues that still need to be worked out. One of those issues is the amount of taxation that will be a part of legal cannabis in New Jersey. 

“None of us really know how much it will generate, because we don’t know what this market will be,” says Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester of the Assembly Appropriations committee. “We have to be careful not to place such a deep burden on the product that it can’t find its way to the marketplace.”

However, despite this back-and-forth, one thing remains constant; as in states that already have legal cannabis, New Jersey is headed for a chance to earn some serious revenue once the industry becomes fully legalized. The state could bring in as much as $450 million a year once the market is truly up and running. 

It will take some time for all parties to agree, but once New Jersey legislators do push through a legal cannabis bill, the business of building up the legal industry can commence.