The governor of New Jersey touted the state’s growing marijuana industry during his State of the State address on Tuesday, emphasizing work that’s being done to ensure that the market is equitable and right the wrongs of the drug war.
While discussing cannabis policy developments, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) also gave a nod to his invited guest, Darrin Chandler Jr., president of the minority-owned marijuana business Premium Genetics.
“We are growing an entirely new and broad-based adult-use cannabis industry—an industry that is making room for women and minority small business owners,” the governor said.
He also said more generally that the state is “leading by living up to our obligation to make the word ‘justice’ ring true in every community, to not just undo the injustices of the past but fix what was broken.”
One way that New Jersey is doing that, Murphy said, is by “undoing the harm that the War on Drugs did to our communities.”
We are leading by living up to our obligation to provide a real sense of justice for all by:
🌎advancing environmental justice
🩺undoing the harm caused by the War on Drugs
🗳️protecting our sacred right to vote
🤲standing strong against hate and intolerance#NJSOTS
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) January 10, 2023
Regulators in the state have been receiving public input on the most effective ways to use cannabis tax revenue to invest in social equity. However, New Jersey has faced criticism from some advocates who feel the state has put too much focus on supporting large corporate interests, which currently dominate the market.
For example, activists have questioned certain market-forward policies such as the ongoing ban on home cultivation for adult consumers.
Murphy said in November that the state should “revisit” its current criminalization of homegrown marijuana for personal use—but he thinks that conversation should happen at a later point after the commercial market has matured.
From day one, my Administration vowed to legalize adult-use cannabis.
The first sale of legal, adult-use cannabis marked the start of an equitable cannabis industry that protects access for medical marijuana patients and advances social justice.#NJSOTS pic.twitter.com/zJv6ZG4GeS
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) January 6, 2023
The debate over equity versus industry came to the fore on Twitter last week after regulators in New Jersey and New York briefly sparred over which state has taken the better approach to rolling out their recreational industries.
Meanwhile, New Jersey adult-use marijuana sales exceeded $100 million for the first time in the third quarter of the 2022 fiscal year, with combined medical and recreational cannabis purchases totaling $177,710,764, the state reported last month.
In the region, New York’s first recreational cannabis store opened late last month. Connecticut’s adult-use market launched on Tuesday. And Rhode Island’s first recreational cannabis sales started at the beginning of December.
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Back in New Jersey, an Assembly committee approved a bill last month to provide state-level protections for banks and insurers that work with licensed marijuana businesses.
The full Assembly approved a bill in October that would allow licensed marijuana businesses to deduct certain expenses on their state tax returns, a partial remedy as the industry continues to be blocked from making federal deductions under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.
A bill filed by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) over the summer would separately authorize the governor to enter into agreements for interstate marijuana commerce with other states that have legalized cannabis. However, the agreements could only be forged if federal law changes, or if the Justice Department issues guidance permitting such activity.
The Senate president separately filed legislation to legalize psilocybin in New Jersey, and it includes provisions that would allow people to cultivate the psychedelic at home.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.