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2 Major Hurdles Cleared As Marijuana Legalization Movement Marches On In New Jersey

UNION, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A Monmouth University poll finds more than 6 in 10 New Jersey residents support legalizing marijuana and half say a current proposal to make it happen is a good idea. This as legislators say they are closer to an agreement.

Pot? Or not?

The stalemate between Gov. Phil Murphy and other state leaders over marijuana appears to have been broken. The primary sponsor of the bill to legalize says they have reached a deal on how to tax and regulate the drug, CBS2's Meg Baker reported Monday.

Instead of a percentage tax on price, legal marijuana would be taxed based on weight, giving the state a level of predictability on revenue.

"There will be a $42 excise tax on every ounce that is sold, regardless of price," said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union. "There will be a three-year look-back in case we need to reevaluate that because it is a possibility that the price goes down so low that $42 becomes unmanageably high."

Marijuana Sales
A budtender shows cannabis buds to a customer at the Green Pearl Organics dispensary on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California, Jan. 1, 2018, in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. (credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

MORENew Jersey Lawmakers Vote To Advance Bill That Could Legalize Recreational Marijuana By January

If the price of the drug stays high, New Jersey will have one of the lowest marijuana tax rates in the country. But if the price plummets, that could change.

That's why Scutari said a five-person oversight commission will be formed to set prices and regulations. Another point agreed upon, Gov. Murphy will have three direct appointments.

Some in opposition to legalization say slow down. The group RAMP, or Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy, says many towns worry about the expense to train local police officers to be drug recognition experts.

"Seventy towns throughout New Jersey have said no to any dispensaries in town," said Stephen Reid, executive director of NJ RAMP.

MORENew Jersey Farmers Turn To Hemp To Cash In On High Demand

Reid, who is also the mayor of Point Pleasant Beach, urged caution when it comes to selling THC-laced edibles like gummy bears and lollipops.

"The children are the ones that are really going to suffer here," Reid said. "In Colorado, you have children now either smoking or eating edibles at 12 years of age. That is the youngest throughout the country."

So while the bill is not home free, the two major issues have been cleared: pricing and how marijuana will be distributed.

When asked if he thinks legalization has the votes, Sen. Scutari said, "Well, as we stand here today I'm not certain that we do. I know the Senate president and speaker are working on that. But as I said earlier, we need the governor's engagement on this."

Details still to be worked out include exactly how many manufacturers and distributors will be allowed to open in the state. It is hoped that will be hashed out in time to have a vote next month.

The measure needs 21 votes in the Senate to pass. Sources told CBS2's Baker it has only 16 right now. The final marijuana legalization bill will also include expungements -- clearing marijuana convictions from criminal records.

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