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New Jersey legislative panels advance adult-use marijuana bill

Two New Jersey legislative committees advanced legislation Monday that would implement an adult-use marijuana  market, a first step after voters passed a milestone legalization referendum on Election Day.

The identical state Senate and Assembly measures, which build on a previous Senate bill, would enable existing medical marijuana operators to fast-track into a recreational market.

The current version of the implementation bill also sets targets for the state to issue at least 15% of licenses to minorities and another 15% to women-owned and disabled veterans businesses.

But social justice advocates criticized the legislation for not explicitly reinvesting marijuana tax revenue into communities affected by the war on drugs, NJ.com reported.

The approvals by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Assembly Oversight Reform and Federal Relations Committee came after the first set of public hearings on the legislation Monday.

“What this market does, and the way it is written now, is give 70% of the licenses, the finances and the economic windfall, quite frankly, to white men,” Rev. Charles Boyer, founder of the racial justice group Salvation and Social Justice, said during one of the public hearings, according to NJ.com.

Additional hearings are scheduled for Thursday. The measure is expected to be amended as further discussions and negotiations take place.

Lawmakers had hoped for the full Senate and Assembly to pass the measure by Nov. 16. But it’s unclear whether that timetable will be met. “I think we do have a great piece of legislation here,” state Sen. Nicholas Scutari said, according to NJ.com. “We’ll make it a little bit better in the next week.”

Scutari introduced the Senate bill to legalize marijuana.

Marijuana Business Daily projects that the New Jersey adult-use marijuana program will generate $850 million-$950 million in annual revenues by 2024.

Experts say that legalization in New Jersey increases the pressure on neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania to follow suit.

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