Jersey CPAs divided on legalizing marijuana

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More than 50 percent of New Jersey CPAs are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in the Garden State, but 47 percent are opposed, according to a new poll by the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

The 747 New Jersey CPAs polled by the NJCPA cited tax revenue as one reason for legalizing recreational marijuana sales, along with potentially relieving some of the burden on state prisons by reducing the inmate population. Those opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana sales said it could be a gateway to more addictive drugs. They believe alternative ways to reduce state spending should be considered before legalization of marijuana and only medical marijuana should be legally available to patients.

New Jersey Governor-elect Phil Murphy has said he supports legalizing marijuana within the first 100 days of his administration when he takes office next month.

CPAs who responded to the poll see opportunities in offering accounting, tax and consulting services to the marijuana industry. They would like to help startups and consult with them on taxes, particularly advising them about any unusual tax accounting rules; guidance on regulatory compliance in relation to audits; and financial planning and reporting.

“The issue is a complicated one for the state and its residents, both on an individual basis and regarding business opportunities,” said NJCPA CEO and executive director Ralph Albert Thomas in a statement. “Traditional accounting services would be needed for any new business but thoughtful consideration will have to be given to the many ramifications involved in legalizing marijuana.”

However, respondents also had some major concerns about advising marijuana businesses, including the stigma attached to accounting firms who advertise they serve clients in the cannabis industry. Interstate, federal and sales tax issues could also prove to be thorny as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. They also cited problems with the marijuana industry being a cash business and federally insured banks often try to avoid doing business with marijuana businesses.

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