A bill to create a legal marijuana marketplace in New Jersey is “98 percent” done, with a dispute over tax rates the only major sticking point, one of the state’s leading legal weed advocates said.
Scott Rudder, who heads the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, a trade group of aspiring marijuana growers, cultivators, retailers and related businesses, said the major holdup is whether to impose a 25 percent tax on retail marijuana sales right away, or start with a lower tax rate that escalates to that level over several years.
Speaking at a conference sponsored by the business newspaper and website NJBIZ, Rudder said he remains optimistic that lawmakers will soon hammer out a deal to make New Jersey the ninth state to allow adults 21 and over to use marijuana for any reason.
“I’m very, very, very confident,” Rudder told more than 100 people at a hotel in Somerset. “We have worked out 98 percent of the issues.”
He spoke less than two weeks before Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s self-imposed deadline for passing a legal weed bill. Sweeney, a Gloucester Democrat who supports legalization, told reporters last month that he hopes to put a bill on the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy by the end of September.
The date has no legal significance, and lawmakers have missed two other informal deadlines: the end of Murphy’s first 100 days in office, in late April, and the passage of a state budget at the end of June. Murphy, who also backs legal weed, had included anticipated revenue from marijuana sales in his budget proposal.
Speaking on the radio call-in program “Ask Governor Murphy” on Monday night, the Democratic governor also expressed optimism about prospects for a marijuana bill.
“I continue to believe it’s this year,” Murphy said. “Doing it is important but doing it right is more important and that’s going to be key.”