A widely reported deal between Gov. Murphy and state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney means New Jersey is getting closer to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. It also signals that any local municipalities that have not already begun the weed debate need to get started.
The agreement, reached a couple of weeks ago, resolved questions over taxation and appointments to a regulatory commission. Murphy had pushed for a higher state tax on marijuana. Sweeney wanted a lower rate. In the end, they settled on a flat rate of $42 per ounce, thereby reducing the impact price fluctuations have on state coffers. They also figured out who’s appointing whom to the commission.
Already there are reports from a number of South Jersey communities that marijuana-related companies are trying to gauge the level of interest towns might have in getting involved in the industry. Several municipalities rightly have recognized this could become a hot-button issue and have formed committees to study the matter.
That’s a good move for a number of reasons.
Local leaders have to consider everything from potential tax revenue to possible negative societal impacts marijuana growth operations or sales could generate. Does it make sense to reject marijuana companies if the town next door welcomes them? Is marijuana simply something residents don’t want around? How many jobs could it create? Would it be OK to have a grow site but not a retail outlet?
While many of the details will be decided on the state level, now is a good time for the locals to hold a general discussion about how the community feels about legal marijuana. The subject simply can be addressed at municipal meetings or, even better, by appointing a committee to gather information and solicit both expert and local opinions in something like a town hall meeting.
Either way, it appears legal weed is coming to New Jersey — soon. Local towns should do all they can to be ready.