Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attend the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York. Christie has made his opposition to recreational marijuana known, but one lawmaker is preparing the way for future legalization. (Win McNamee, Getty Images)

N.J. legislator planting seeds for recreational marijuana legalization post-Christie

TRENTON, N.J. — Marijuana could be grown, sold and used in New Jersey under new legislation introduced Monday in the state Senate.

Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the bill’s sponsor, said at a news conference that the measure has little chance of being enacted under Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who opposes legalization efforts.

But Scutari said he’s introducing the measure now as a way to lay the groundwork for it to be enacted by the next governor. He pointed to states like Colorado that have successfully implemented recreational marijuana laws, and he called the country’s marijuana prohibition a failure.

“It is time to end the detrimental effect these archaic laws are having on our residents and our state,” Scutari said.

New Jersey has legalized medical marijuana but Christie, who is leading a White House commission examining the opioid crisis in the country for Republican President Donald Trump, has been a vocal opponent of relaxing marijuana laws.

Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Phil Murphy has said he would support legalization and decriminalization efforts. Other Democrats running for governor, including Jim Johnson, state Sen. Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski have said they would back legalization as well.

The GOP front-runner, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, said last week that Republican U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions likely wouldn’t accept expansion of legalization, but stopped short of specifying what her position is on legalization. Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has said he opposes legalization but favors broadening the state’s medical marijuana program.

The legislation would permit possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solids, 72 ounces in liquid form and 7 grams of concentrate. It would prohibit home cultivation.

The legislation would establish a Division of Marijuana Enforcement, charged with regulating the industry. The legislation also would establish a sales tax on marijuana from 7 percent to 25 percent over five years to encourage early participation, Scutari said.