A bill to legalize marijuana in New Jersey passed a joint committee in both the state senate and legislature on Monday, November 26. The bill, as well as others related to medical marijuana and expungement of offenses, now move on to the full chambers where they are scheduled for a vote next month.
The main focus of the debate was S2703, which would legalize the possession of one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Under the proposed law, marijuana sales would be taxed at 12% and allow municipalities to apply an additional 2% tax. It also would create a state system to oversee the operations of the new potentially multi-billion-dollar industry.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 7-4 with two abstentions. The Assembly Budget Committee voted 7-3 with one abstention.
S2703 would also allow individuals convicted of past marijuana offenses to immediately have their marijuana-related records expunged at no cost to them, provided they file the appropriate petition. Typical limitations to expungement eligibility would not apply to such petitions.
Meanwhile, a second and less controversial bill, S3205, would radically change New Jersey’s expungement requirements, opening new laws to the eligibility of expungement, including sale and distribution of controlled dangerous substances. Among the proposed changes are a reduction in the wait period for most offenses from six years to five. In addition, it expands the number of disorderly persons offenses one can be convicted of from four to five.
The bill also establishes a new “clean slate” law that would allow individuals to completely erase their criminal records (with some exceptions) if they do not commit any offenses for 10 years. This process would apply even to those who have already received expungements in the past and/or would not be eligible for expungements even under the proposed lighter restrictions.
The bills are scheduled for a debate and possible vote in the full chambers on December 17. Gov. Phil Murphy has been supportive of marijuana legalization but has clashed with lawmakers over specifics. In particular, he has insisted on a higher tax rate for marijuana sales.
If you or someone you love has been charged with or convicted of a marijuana or other drug-related offense in New Jersey, you need the help of an experienced attorney. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled criminal defense and expungement attorneys. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.