Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration announced that every medical marijuana purchase will be taxed. State Treasury spokesman Andrew Pratt explained that the state’s 7% sales tax will apply to every purchase made at a dispensary by a doctor-recommended medical marijuana patient.
Some dispensaries, including Montclair’s Greenleaf Compassion Center, the first collective to get the green light to open in the state, had been holding off on opening their doors until the sales tax issue was settled. Now that Christie’s administration has made their plan clear, many medical marijuana advocates and lawmakers are surprised.
Four out of the five primary sponsors of the state’s medical marijuana bill say they were never consulted about their intent regarding taxing the drug. State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora spent five years gathering support for the bill before it was enacted in 2010 said that he was never consulted and that taxing marijuana was never the goal.
“If you use medical marijuana as a pharmaceutical, then you shouldn’t be taxed for it… You don’t punish a person who’s terminally ill and needs the drug,” Gusciora explained.
Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey Ken Wolski shared Gusciora’s sentiments. He told the press, “It’s clearly unfair… If you want money from marijuana, you need to legalize it for recreational purposes, not tax people who are sick.”
Another sponsor, State Senator Nicholas Scutari, explained that he had been a part of brief, informal discussions about whether medical marijuana would be taxed. Scutari, however, understood that because the bill did not specifically grant a tax exemption for medical marijuana, it was likely that a sales tax would be imposed.
None of the other primary sponsors of the bill remember being consulted about the sales tax, but that isn’t stopping the Christie administration from claiming that taxation was part of the deal all along. Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak told the press, “It’s been made clear to us by that sponsors that they intended that.”
So far, 318 patients in New Jersey have been approved to use medical marijuana. 138 more are currently going through the screening and application process.