NEW JERSEY – State Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-NJ) filed a new bill to allow for interstate cannabis commerce with other legal medical and adult-use states.
The aspirational bill is the latest move in a growing campaign to permit the transportation of cannabis products across state borders, contingent on changes in federal law. The New Jersey state senator filed the legislation as California advanced a similar bill, following a precedent set by Oregon in 2019 in preparing for interstate commerce. The timing of the legislation, on the heels of the passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in the House, signals a seriousness in this endeavor.
“The economics of this industry won’t be rational until we are able to move cannabis from where it is most effectively grown to where there is in most demand,” Adam Smith, president of the non-profit Alliance for Sensible Markets, said.
If the bill passes, it would take effect immediately but the governor would only be able to initiate interstate agreements with permission from either Congress or the U.S. Department of Justice. The governor would have to submit any proposed interstate cannabis commerce agreement to the state legislature’s Joint Budget Oversight Committee for review and the panel would have 60 days to suggest revisions.
Potential interstate commerce is contingent on myriad factors, including compliance with cannabis laws of the contracting state, compliance with New Jersey rules on public health and safety standards, agreed-upon mode of transportation, and provisions to handle “public health and welfare emergencies.” Additionally, the proposed legislation would not allow cannabis products to be shipped through any state or jurisdiction that does not permit the activity. Out-of-state businesses would have to obtain licenses not only from state regulators but also from local governments where the activity occurs.
According to language in the bill, “Any interstate agreement is required to prohibit the commercial transportation of cannabis by any other means other than what is established in the agreement and also prohibit the transportation of cannabis through any state which does not authorize that transportation of cannabis. Any foreign licensee is required to obtain a license from this State and any proper authorization from a local jurisdiction prior to engaging in commercial cannabis activity.”
The bill also contains an equity component to address populations marginalized by the criminalization of cannabis in the past.
“An agreement shall include provisions determined by the Governor to promote the inclusion and support of individuals and communities in the cannabis industry who are linked to populations and neighborhoods that were negatively or disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization,” the legislation says.