A bill to legalize marijuana will be discussed and possibly voted on Monday morning by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland; and state Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union, S-2703 was introduced June 7 but has been amended since then.

This would be the first legislative vote on the bill.

The New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Act would legalize possession and personal use of up to an ounce of marijuana for people ages 21 and older. It would also create a Division of Marijuana Enforcement and a licensing structure to tax, control and legalize marijuana for adults.

The sponsors say the bill will save $127 million a year now spent to enforce criminal laws regarding marijuana and raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue. It is also intended to keep funds from going to illegal drug cartels and result in more racial and class fairness in how people are treated regarding marijuana use.

But many in the Legislature and private sector are opposing legalization, warning it may increase drug use, contribute to more driving-under-the-influence accidents, exacerbate problems in poorer communities worsen an already severe addiction crisis.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association wants any bill passed to have policies to prevent workplace accidents and injuries.

“NJBIA is requesting that any legislation state clearly that legalization does not repeal or restrict the rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain drug- and alcohol-free workplaces, or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use of marijuana, even if it is otherwise legal,” said NJBIA Vice President Mike Wallace.

“Specifically, we are asking that any law ... give employers the right to prohibit employees from using it in the workplace or coming to work under the influence of it,” Wallace said Friday in a statement.

Stockton University will hold a free workshop on the implications for employers of the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey at 6 p.m. Dec. 4 in its Atlantic City campus center.

According to language in the bill, New Jersey law-enforcement officers made more than 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years.

In that year, a person was arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey about every 22 minutes.

Black New Jerseyans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates; and marijuana possession arrests constituted three out of every five drug arrests in New Jersey in 2012, according to the bill.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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