Everybody gather round. It’s been looming on the horizon for a decade, but it’s finally here…. New York and New Jersey will have legal recreational marijuana use by the end of 2019. It has been a long, difficult struggle for our “progressive area”.
Maybe it’s that 64% of Americans are currently in favor of recreational marijuana; or maybe it’s that industrial hemp became federally legal in December; or perhaps it’s because New York’s northerly neighbor Canada started legalized use on October 17th, 2018. What ever the reason, it’s happening. Governor Cuomo has recently promised legalization in NY during the first 100 days of 2019. The last thing New York wants is to watch New Jersey do something first. (Oh and also missing out on the estimated $436 million in tax rev on the projected 3.1 billi in sales.)
As with everything, the devil is in the details. One thing you can count on is that New York will make this process as transparent as renaming the Tappan Zee Bridge. Likewise, New Jersey will make recreational marijuana as easy to understand as Chris Christie’s medical marijuana plan.
A huge bone of contention with this whole thing in Jersey seems to be with revenue distribution. Mainly, if your town does not want to permit any marijuana shops (Mahwah, Parsippany, East Rutherford, etc.), should your town receive any revenue? The Garden State wants 12 – 25% of each sale and will reportedly include consumption areas and delivery.
New York’s issue with revenue distribution is slightly different, should marijuana tax revenue go towards MTA? The usual downstate, upstate stuff. NY also has production concerns with not being able to meet the potential demand of NYC. New York has not said exactly how much sales tax it will want, but I bet it will be a big chunk, c’mon it’s New York.
In both states, the critical point is not to make it so expensive it pushes consumers back to the black market. In California for example, even after passing recreational marijuana, it’s reported as much as 80 percent of sales are still in the black market. We must also give first opportunities to the neighborhoods that were effected negatively by the “Just Say No” failed Reefer Madness/Reaganomics policies. These neighborhoods that are still hurting due to massive incarcerations and fines over minor drug offenses. Essentially, making sure black and brown folks are mandated a certain percentage of ownership. Lastly, everyone that is incarcerated for marijuana related offenses must be released.
New Jersey seemed to have quite a lead, with Murphy campaigning on this promise. However with Cuomo taking his new stance, it’s a dead tie and should be interesting moving forward. I hope we will take a good look at Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada and take the best of what works well in each. One things for sure, Albany and Trenton are not known for their straightforwardness while creating new legislation. Puff, puff, pass.
Who do you think will be first?
Christoper Moretti & Seth Goldstein. © NYNJ.COM