The road to legalization of recreational cannabis in New Jersey may still have a few bumps as lawmakers determine how much to tax it and how to use the revenue.
But for NJBIA, workplace safety standards remain the top priority as the state tries to break the grass ceiling.
Employment protections are included in the language of the bills (S-21/A-21) to create and regulate a legal marijuana marketplace. But this week, NJBIA asked lawmakers for two amendments clarifying that businesses can continue enforcing their drug and alcohol workplace safety standards.
“While the bill allows employers to consider an employee’s use of cannabis only if they have a ‘rational basis’ related to the workplace, we want to ensure that maintaining a drug-free workplace is considered a ‘rational basis,’” NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor told the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee on Monday.
Cantor also asked for a second amendment that would exempt critical infrastructure employers from any limitations on prohibiting cannabis use by their employees, as did NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
New Jersey voters approved the full legalization of marijuana by referendum, effective Jan. 1, but it is now up to the Legislature to pass enabling legislation to carry out that directive and create the regulatory framework under which adults may cultivate, sell and use marijuana.
The Assembly bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20) and the Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22). More than 50 people testified on the legislation at the two committee hearings on Monday, and lawmakers said amendments would be incorporated at a later date.
The legislation was scheduled to be heard again on Thursday in other committees, but it was held – likely due to different opinions on how recreational marijuana should be taxed.
On Monday, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin called for an additional “user fee” on cannabis consumers to “help reduce the financial burden on New Jersey’s taxpayers and specifically its urban communities.”
The constitutional amendment that voters approved capped retail taxes on cannabis at 6.625% and allowed local governments to impose an additional 2% tax on cannabis transactions.
While Gov. Phil Murphy said he supported Coughlin’s position, Scutari, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz issued a joint statement saying no additional taxes should be levied on legal marijuana purchases.
Medicinal marijuana available only by prescription has been legal in New Jersey since 2010.