N.J. Recreational Marijuana Bill About to Take Major Step Ahead

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey will lift a major roadblock to legalized recreational marijuana with legislative committee hearings, a prelude to state Senate and Assembly approval next month.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, said his house’s budget panel will vote Nov. 26 on a bill that assigns a 12 percent sales tax and allows local governments to collect a 2 percent excise tax on the drug. Lawmakers also will consider expanding access to medical marijuana and expunging some convictions.

“We would love to come to an agreement with the governor,” Sweeney said in an interview. During his monthly radio phone-in program on Monday, Governor Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, said he and lawmakers were “at an impasse” on the bill. A senior administration official Tuesday said Murphy has outstanding issues with the bill, but was open to negotiation.

The Assembly appropriations committee also is expected to consider the legislation. If passed, both houses would vote on Dec. 17, the last step before sending the bill to Murphy, who took office in January with a promise to legalize recreational pot. New Jersey would be the 11th U.S. state to approve marijuana use, even as it remains banned by federal law.

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