Bills decriminalizing marijuana, setting up cannabis industry face another setback
A bill that was expected to cater to Gov. Phil Murphy’s requests about marijuana legalization will not be heard in the state Senate.
The bill was expected to be debated on Monday. It contained changes that focus on penalties for those who are underage and caught with marijuana.
New Jersey voters approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the state last year. But the details that need to be worked out to set up the industry have caused delays.
Democratic state Sen. Nick Scutari was attempting to appease the governor with a so-called “cleanup bill.”
“I was willing to entertain that, but members of the legislature don’t want to see any further changes. They believe the bill on his desk is more than adequate,” Scutari said.
The cleanup bill S-3320 did not include jail time, but rather those between the ages of 18 and 20 caught with marijuana would face fines. Those under 18 spotted by police would be given a “curbside warning.”
But there is some backlash to those penalties from those who suggest that it could unfairly target members of the minority community.
Besides tax revenue, one of the reasons for the passing of marijuana legalization nationwide has been for social justice reasons. Data has long been cited that Black Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.
The delay in getting New Jersey’s recreational marijuana industry up and running is bringing on criticism.
Republican state Sen. Anthony Bucco saying, "I've expressed concerns for a long time that the process to legalize marijuana moved way too quickly and was backwards from the beginning. There are extremely complex criminal, regulatory, social, and tax implications that should have been figured out before a question was placed on the ballot."
But Scutari says that Murphy already has two legalization bills on his desk that he can sign at any time.
“I got the bill to the desk by Jan. 1. Our Bill was there, and my understanding is it was good to go. And someone there decided they didn’t like it anymore,” Scutari says.
It remains unclear if the governor will sign the bills as is.