Legislative Approval of S21 Leads the Way for More Taxes on Cannabis Sales

by Melissa A. Dardani, CPA, leader of the NJCPA Cannabis Interest Group | January 7, 2021

New Jersey Senate Resolution No. 183, which proposes the constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for personal, non-medical use by adults, has ambiguous language relating specifically to cannabis only being subject to the Sales and Use Tax Act or any other subsequent law of similar effect. This speculation was validated upon the passage of S21 on Dec. 17 which, as of the date of this writing, was passed in the Senate and Assembly and is sitting on Governor Murphy’s desk pending additional changes that he has requested of lawmakers. Regarding the taxation of cannabis purchases, S21 provides the imposition of several consumption-based taxes, such as the following:

  • Sales Tax — The standard New Jersey sales tax rate will apply to the sale of cannabis but will not apply to the points in the supply chain that are subject to the local cannabis transfer and user tax, discussed below. The bill provides that at least 70 percent of tax revenues from retail sales shall be appropriated to investments in impact zones, or municipalities that have been most adversely affected by criminal cannabis enterprises (e.g., law enforcement activity, unemployment, poverty or any combination thereof).
  • Local cannabis transfer tax and user tax — This optional tax will be imposed on a municipality-by-municipality basis and can take place at various points in the supply chain including cultivator to cultivator, establishment to establishment, retailer to consumer, or any combination thereof. The municipality has the discretion to set the rate, but it may not exceed 2 percent at the cultivation, manufacturer and retailer levels, and 1 percent at the wholesaler level. If enacted at each point in the supply chain, it can be discerned that this may amount to an additional 7-percent tax.
  • Social justice excise tax — The Cannabis Regulatory Commission has the authority to exercise a social justice excise tax, which will apply to sales at the cultivation level to adult-use sales only. While this tax will take the place of the sales tax at the cultivation level, the amount of excise fee to be charged is determined based on an inverse relationship to the price of the product; meaning as the cost of cannabis goes down, the tax goes up. Unlike the sales, transfer and user taxes, these funds are to be exclusively earmarked for investing in social equity programs.
  • Stamp fee — As part of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s responsibility to develop and maintain a system for tracking the product from seed to sale, the Legislature has called for the use of stamps to affix to the product. The stamps will be available for purchase to those at the various points in the supply chain — cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and delivery services — and could, in effect, be viewed as a tax. While the bill does not provide the price of the stamps, it states that the price “shall be reasonable and commensurate with the cost of producing the stamp.”

The language in S21 provides that New Jersey cannabis sales are not only subject to the standard sales and use tax, and that it is the intention to enact “other subsequent law of similar effect.” It is also clear that the goal of the Legislature is to ensure revenues generated from these sales will primarily be invested into communities that have been adversely affected by the historic prohibition on cannabis. 

Melissa A. Dardani

Melissa A. Dardani

Melissa A. Dardani, CPA, CFE, MAcc, is the founder of MD Advisory Services. She is a member of the NJCPA Emerging Technologies Interest Group and several other interest groups. She can be reached at melissa.dardani@mdas.cpa.

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