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N.J. Marijuana Legalization Bill Allows Towns to Ban Sales

Marijuana plants. (File Photo/Flickr)

Marijuana plants. (File Photo/Flickr)

As municipalities across the Shore area debate restricting or banning the sale of marijuana, should it become legal in New Jersey, the legalization bill introduced Friday includes the option for towns to enact ordinances outlawing sales.

Marijuana would be legal to possess statewide, according to S-830, sponsored by state Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, but municipalities would be able to “prohibit the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, or marijuana retailers.”

Point Pleasant Beach has already approved an ordinance banning marijuana retail sales, with Lavallette and Seaside Heights expected to follow. Toms River Councilman George Wittmann said he would also support a ban on sales.

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The bill states that municipalities would have one year from the passage of the legalization law to enact an ordinance banning sales. If the year goes by without an ordinance passed, retail sales would legal for five years, after which the town would have another opportunity to pass a ban. The process would be repeated every five years.

The bill would also create a new state agency – the Division of Marijuana Enforcement – which would set forth licensing guidelines for cultivation, manufacturing and sales. The agency would also create a fee structure. Marijuana would be initially taxed at 10 percent, but the percentage would rise over time. During the third year of legalization, it would rise to 15 percent, then 20 percent in year four and ultimately 25 percent beyond year five.

Under the Scutari bill, anyone 21 years old or above would be legally permitted to purchase and possess one ounce or less of marijuana, 16 ounces or less of marijuana infused product in solid form, 72 ounces or less in liquid form, 7 grams or less of marijuana concentrate and up to 6 immature marijuana plants.

To become law, the bill would need to be approved by both houses of the state legislature and signed into law by the governor. Incoming Gov. Phil Murphy pledged during the recent gubernatorial campaign to sign a legalization bill within 100 days of taking office. Murphy is set to be sworn in Jan. 16.

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