Outraged Senator Robert Singer Tries to Send Medical Marijuana Bill Back to Remove Sales Tax

As senators in Trenton debate revisions to the state's medical marijuana program, Senator Robert Singer sends the bill back to the floor in hopes of removing a provision that would charge sales tax. The initiative failed and Singer, along with other senators, voted for the bill, saying the changes will help many people, even if it's not perfect.

Senator Robert Singer, Republican from Ocean County, on second reading this afternoon moved to table the medical marijuana bill for purposes of amendment. Singer insisted on the need for the legislature to revise A10/3740/3437 AcsAaAaAcsAcaSa (ACS/2R). But – after senators kicked it around for a little while and after a failed tabling effort – it ended up passing anyway by a vote of 33-4 – with Singer also voting in the affirmative.

“To add sales tax to medical marijuana is outrageous,” the senator said early in the discussion on the floor. “We should not make a profit on helping people. It is outrageous.

“I move the bill back for purpose of amending. Take the tax out,” the senator added.

He also wanted to eliminate the two percent surcharge, the host fee by towns.

“This is a double whammy on the working poor,” Singer said.

He ended up voting for it today.

But grimly.

“We tax no other medication,” he said. “It’s a money grab on the wrong people – working people.”

Senator Nick Scutari (D-20) (pictured below) who sponsored the legislation, defended the tax because of the costs the state would incur.

Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) supported the bill.

“I echo senator Singer’s concern about the tax. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said O’Scanlon, suggesting a tax phase-out.

He later fleshed out his thoughts in a partial statement.

“I am proud to be a prime sponsor of this legislation and vote ‘yes’ on its passage. However, I do believe there are some areas of the bill we can improve upon,” O’Scanlon said. “I would like to see us phase out the tax on medical cannabis completely within two years – if not immediately – and certainly not add another tax. I don’t believe we should be taxing medication at all.”

Like Singer, state Senator Shirley Turner (D-15) worried about the sales tax.

“I’m concerned low income people will not be able to avail themselves,” she said. “To add insult to injury, there is a sales tax affixed to this bill. If it’s a medicine, why are we taxing it?”

But like O’Scanlon, she said she would support the bill in the interest of avoiding allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

Senator Joe Vitale (D-19), chair of the Senate Health Committee, argued in favor of the bill.

“This isn’t a new tax,” Vitale said. “I don’t disagree we shouldn’t have a sales tax. But until the congress and the president decide they are willing to allow insurance carriers have this as a benefit,” New Jersey needs the tax.

Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) voted yes.

“I don’t like it but I know it’s going to help a lot of people,” said the veteran senator from Newark.

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