Gov. Murphy still ‘optimistic’ marijuana will be legalized soon

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Gov. Phil Murphy says that he is still “optimistic” that adult-use recreational marijuana will be legal in New Jersey in the not-too-distant future.

Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin commented on the progress during a bill signing Tuesday morning for expanded paid family leave.

“We’re still trying to machine this to get it over the goal line,” Murphy said. “But I think we’re all working really hard to get this done.”

The governor campaigned on legalizing recreational marijuana for the Garden State and promised to get it done within the first 100 days of his term. This did not happen though, mainly because Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney disagreed over how legal marijuana should be taxed.

RELATED: Legalization of marijuana may be on the horizon 
RELATED: Reports: NJ lawmakers hope to vote on recreational marijuana this month 

Assembly Speaker Coughlin says that he has been working to help bridge the gap.

“This is a seismic shift in public policy and the creation of a new industry. They're both demanding items and so we’ve got to make sure we get it right. We want to make sure we have a bill in place that people can support, and so there's an awful lot of work that goes into it,” he said.

Reports from over the weekend seemed to indicate Murphy and Sweeney had agreed to tax marijuana by the ounce, rather than by sales tax. Another aspect of the deal would give the governor more control over a new regulatory commission that would oversee legal marijuana sales.

“This is complicated. We’re starting up an entire industry from scratch,” Murphy said.

The lawmakers resisted any talk of deadlines or a final bill, saying that they did not want to talk about ongoing legislative negotiations

“Getting it right is a lot more important than getting it fast,” said Murphy.

It was not clear if any votes were scheduled on the bill.

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