New Jersey seeks applicants for new medical marijuana firms

At a morning news conference, Gov. Phil Murphy announced New Jersey’s medical marijuana program will grow like a weed: jumping from just six Alternative Treatment Centers to 108 distributed evenly across the state. He said Jersey currently has more than 47,000 card-carrying participants and adds 3,000 additional patients each month.

“Meeting these needs is vital to our ongoing work of ensuring a medical marijuana program that is more accessible to more patients, and which ensures a supply of high-quality medicinal cannabis needed to meet demand and at lower prices,” Murphy said.

The increase includes 24 cultivation, 30 manufacturing and 54 separate dispensary sites. More, it upstages a medical marijuana program expansion bill that’s just days away from an Assembly vote. The governor supports the bill in principle, but disagrees with several aspects, which could lead to a conditional veto.

“The bill’s on his desk, or will be soon, and so we’re hopeful that we can work all these issues out together. But I think the governor’s goal is to make sure there’s enough product for patients who need it,” said Sen. Joe Vitale, one of the sponsors of the senate bill.

Meanwhile, as fraught budget negotiations continue, the governor also announced his proposed millionaire’s tax increase, if approved, would pay out $125 a pop for two million Jersey homeowners and renters who earn between $10,000 and $250,000. It’d come as a one-shot credit on 2019 income tax returns, on top of current property tax relief programs, and at a pretty political moment.

“The question is, can we expect to see $125 this year, next year, the year after? Under the current proposal, it would only be something for the FY 2020 budget, so it wouldn’t be something beyond just this year,” NJ Spotlight’s budget and finance writer John Reitmeyer said. “It’s just one little sweetener. Remember the Assembly’s up for reelection — all 80 seats in November.”

Murphy hasn’t specifically stated he’d refuse to sign a budget without a millionaire’s tax, although he’s referred to it as a “line in the sand.” Democratic leadership, particularly Senate President Steve Sweeney, has remained staunchly opposed to expanding the millionaire’s tax. Tension’s building as both sides keep butting heads.

“I left him a message on Friday and said I approach this in a spirit of goodwill, that this is the right thing to do for our middle class,” Murphy said.

“It’s time to fix New Jersey. No gimmicks like the announcement today. Let’s get in a room. We’re not going to do a millionaire’s tax. I don’t want to do any taxes. I want to fix New Jersey first. Then if you still have a financial problem, then you can talk about taxes,” Sweeney said.

If the budget standoff results in a government shutdown, state parks would close too. Murphy urged residents to be optimistic.