A New Jersey lawmaker says legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state would create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Senator Nick Scutari in introducing legislation that would legalize possessing up to an ounce of marijuana for those 21 and older and set strict regulations for production and sales.
He says it would not permit home growing, so regulators could focus on the facilities that would be licensed to produce and sell it.
"Rather than having to concern themselves with how many plants people are growing at home, whether or not those plants are making it to the black market, whether or not those plants are bring grown larger than they should and being shipped out to states that do not have legalized marijuana."
Ken Wolski with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana is disappointed home growing won't be allowed.
"But it's a process and bills change as they work their way through the legislature and we hope that home cultivation will be added at some time in the future."
Scutari says the legislation calls for a 7 percent sale tax on recreational marijuana in the first year, gradually increasing to 25 percent in the fifth year.
"We want to make sure the product is affordable and is not something that we're going to get undercut by someone that is selling it illegally. If we cannot sustain that escalating tax rate, then we'll adjust it as we see fit."
Scutari says the whole purpose of the program is to get rid of drug dealers.
“Marijuana is the cash cow of the illegal drug trade in this country. There is no doubt that more money is made from the illegal trade of marijuana in this country than any other substance. So, if you can take marijuana out of the illegal drug trade, you’re going to take so much money of it you’re going to take a lot these dealers off the street corners.”
Scutari wants lawmakers to hold hearings on his bill soon, so it’s ready for the next governor to sign within a hundred days after taking office in January.
“I want it to be ready for our next governor’s signature when he gets here. This is not a simple process creating an entire new industry. So we need to start the hearing and education process first. I can’t take for granted my colleagues' vote on this. I need to educate them and work to get their vote.”