TRENTON, N.J (CBS/AP) — New Jersey lawmakers passed a measure Thursday setting up a recreational marijuana marketplace, sending the legislation to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the bill. The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the bill during remote sessions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation now goes to Murphy, who along with lawmakers reached an agreement on the legislation earlier this month. He’s expected to to sign the bill, though it’s unclear when.

“This is a historic reform that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy. It will launch a new cannabis industry with the potential to create jobs and economic activity at a time when it is desperately needed,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “We will now be able to move forward to correct social and legal injustices that have had a discriminatory impact on communities of color at the same time that marijuana is regulated and made legal for adults.”

Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November allowing for recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The amendment takes effect Jan. 1.

If enacted, the legislation sets out a timetable that could see recreational cannabis available in New Jersey in about six months.

The 200-plus-page legislation is a thicket of technical detail that is being closely watched by lobbyists and businesses interested in opening shop in New Jersey.

For consumers, the legislation means cannabis will be subject to the state’s 6.625% sales tax, with 70% of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents were likelier —- up to three times as much — to face marijuana charges than white residents.

Towns will also have the option to levy a tax of up to 2%.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be able to levy an excise tax, the amount of which will depend on the cost per ounce of cannabis. There will be four levels of tax under the bill, so if cannabis is $350 or more, the tax per ounce will be $10. That rises to $60 per ounce if the retail price of the product is less than $250.

Another part of the bill that resulted from lawmaker negotiations is a limit on the number of licenses for cultivators. They will be set at 37 for two years. The state Senate was pushing for no limits, but the Assembly wanted the caps.

Lawmakers are also considering a bill Thursday to decriminalize marijuana, a measure made necessary because the state’s laws make possession a crime, despite the voter-approved amendment.

Among other things, that measure would permit carrying up to 6 ounces of cannabis.

(©Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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