Murphy, state senators at odds over penalties for minors caught with marijuana
The legalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey has stalled once again as Gov. Phil Murphy and state senators spar over penalties for minors caught with the substance.
Until the two sides come up with an agreement, New Jersey’s legal weed industry is effectively in legislative limbo.
The governor has said that he is willing to negotiate on the matter. But News 12 New Jersey has learned that there are no plans for discussions. The disagreements come more than two months after New Jersey voters approved legal cannabis during the November election.
“You would think that 67% of voters going in one direction you would have consensus, but New Jersey proves that’s not exactly the case,” says attorney Mike McQueeny.
McQueeny is an expert in cannabis law and says that neither side of the issue is necessarily wrong. On one hand, Murphy does not want children to have access to marijuana, so he is looking for a bill to sign that ensures penalties.
In a recent version of the bill, those between 18 and 20 caught with marijuana face fines. Those younger than 18 spotted by police would be given a “curbside warning” and no arrests.
The other side of the argument comes from those who fear that the penalties could unfairly target underage minorities.
McQueeny says that while lawmakers debate, no one is making the promised revenue that legal marijuana was supposed to bring in.
“This whole economic output is now put on pause, solely because we can’t come to terms on the last remaining issue,” he says.
Those who need marijuana for medicinal reasons must also wait.
“A large portion of cannabis users in the adult marketplace are using it for medicinal reasons. So, this really just stop the progress of this program among people who would benefit from medical cannabis,” McQueeny says.
New Jersey must now wait until Murphy signs the bill as it currently stands, or until he gets what he wants from the state Senate.