TRENTON – Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari said today that a bipartisan fact-finding trip to Colorado to examine the state’s recreational marijuana industry demonstrated the widespread benefits that could come from legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey.
Scutari hosted a delegation trip to Colorado attended by a bipartisan group of eight legislators. In addition to Senator Scutari, those who attended were: Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Assemblyman Jim Kennedy. The group met with officials with the Colorado Governor’s Office, the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, state and local elected officials and experts in the field. They also toured cultivation, production and retail facilities in the City of Denver.
“Marijuana is a serious, highly-regulated industry that has proven successful in Colorado. We had the opportunity to meet with officials overseeing the program at the state level, to talk to business owners who are running grow, production and retail facilities and to see the operations on the ground. This is a program that is working, and is working well,” said Senator Scutari. “I want to thank my colleagues for approaching this issue with an open mind, and I’m confident that this trip helped to create an understanding of the benefits a well-regulated program could have in New Jersey.”
Senator Scutari first introduced legislation (S1896) in 2014 to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New Jersey for those who are 21 years of age and older, and is continuing to work on developing legislation for introduction this session. The delegation trip was part of a process to educate legislators about the industry and to determine how best to implement a marijuana program in New Jersey.
The state of Colorado oversees a first-in-the-nation legal marijuana program that reported medical and retail sales of $1 billion last year. In combination, the state brought in over $135 million in fees and taxes, a figure which does not include the broader economic impact of the industry. More than 28,000 people are currently licensed to work in Colorado’s marijuana industry, and it is estimated that thousands more are indirectly employed but do not have direct contact with the products, such as packaging manufacturers, construction and marketing professionals. The state has benefited from reallocating local police resources to other types of crime since marijuana related arrests have plummeted. That is significant, since statistics show that New Jersey dedicates more than $100 million each year to enforcement of marijuana laws.
The senator said he plans to use the lessons learned from the delegation trip to finalize his legislation for introduction and will address two areas based on feedback he received from state officials and others, including: (1) more tightly regulating home grown marijuana and (2) merging the state’s medical and recreational marijuana programs to create a single regulatory program.
“I firmly believe that this is one of the most significant issues that we can act on in this century. No other law has the ability to create tens of thousands of jobs, to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in direct tax revenue, and billions in terms of its economic impact, to reduce the burden on law enforcement and the courts and, most importantly, to save the lives of thousands of people who otherwise will carry a permanent criminal record as a result of marijuana possession charges,” added Senator Scutari. “I look forward to an ongoing discussion on this issue with members of the Legislature, to continuing to draw on the lessons learned from other states and to advancing this process.”