Medical marijuana tax to phase out over a few years, Sweeney says
Staffers for key lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy are expected to meet Thursday to discuss the proposed legislation that would legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults in New Jersey.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said on New Jersey 101.5 that he has spent more than 15 hours working with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, and sponsors of the legislation working on the details.
Sweeney said he hasn’t given up on a Monday hearing and committee vote on the plan but conceded it would be optimistic to think it will be approved next week.
“We would really like to get this passed soon. And we’re pretty close on a lot of issues,” Sweeney said. "Again, the governor has a right to weigh in, too.”
One area that the executive and legislative branches are expected to have to talk over is the tax rate. The most recent proposal sets a 10 percent rate, which is significantly lower than the 25 percent rate suggested in March by the Murphy administration.
“My concern is we tax it too high, you’re going to drive people back to the black market,” Sweeney said. “It’s like sports betting. If you tax it too high, people aren’t going to do it. They’re just going to stay with the same behavior that they had before.”
Sweeney suggested that a companion bill expanding the medical marijuana program would eliminate the sales tax that is currently charged, though perhaps not right away.
“We want to get to a point where we eliminate the tax on medical, because we don’t tax any medical prescriptions,” he said. “So we want to get that done. We want to phase that out over a period of years.”
Sweeney said it will be a while before adult-use marijuana is available for purchase under any circumstances.
“We’re going to have to have a lag. Even if we vote to approve medical and recreational, we can’t bring recreational right in, right now, because we have to make sure we have enough supply for medical,” Sweeney said. “A lot of places where they’ve done both, the medical side has suffered.”