Early Cannabis Trends in 2019

With the new year in full swing, New Jersey Cannabis Counsel highlights some of the most impactful news relevant to the potential legalization of cannabis in New Jersey.

New Attorney General Uninterested in Legal Cannabis Businesses?

Photo of William Barr

United States Attorney General Nominee William Barr

New Attorney General nominee William Barr testified at his confirmation hearing that he does not intend to pursue cannabis businesses operating legally pursuant to state regulations.  This is an about-face from former Attorney General Sessions, who rescinded the Cole Memorandum, which was the Obama era policy document that effectively told the Department of Justice to only pursue legal cannabis businesses that were linked to cartels, children or trafficking cannabis to states where it is not legal.  Mr. Barr has also called for additional cannabis cultivation for research purposes, and understands that the new bill legalizing the growth of hemp has implication for cannabis.  Mr. Barr has not formally committed to preparing a revised Cole Memorandum, but if confirmed, Mr. Barr as Attorney General would be a potential boon for the cannabis industry.

Continued Debate in New Jersey

The debate in New Jersey over how and when cannabis could or should be legalized continues to take place in Trenton.  Earlier this year, sentiment began to grow for the first time that if progress was not made, legalization could potentially be turned over to a ballot question.  Cannabis could still be legalized through a ballot question, but that would be a more complicated legislative process that would be delayed until possibly 2020.

Taxes continue to be an issue.  Senate President Sweeney will not agree to an excise tax on legal cannabis above 12%.  Governor Murphy wants the tax rate to be 25%.  Clearly, there is a significant gap, but a current proposal to attempt to bridge the gap is to tax cannabis by weight, and not on each individual sale.  It remains to be seen whether this tactic will be successful.

One area where progress is being made is the regulation of cannabis.  While once a sticking point with the administration, Governor Murphy has softened on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, so long as his appointees are fairly considered.  This represents forward progress in the cannabis legalization debate.

This blog will continue to monitor the most important issues connected with the potential for legalizing cannabis in New Jersey.