Explainer: This Is What’s in New Jersey’s Landmark Marijuana Bill

NJ Spotlight
Carly Sitrin

Some lawmakers say they haven’t been given enough time to study measure that would legalize marijuana in NJ. Here’s a comprehensive analysis of its contents.

Adult-use marijuana legalization is likely to be voted on by the entire state Legislature as soon as early next week. But since the bill was finalized Monday night, many lawmakers are concerned they haven’t been given enough time to thoroughly digest and assess its major points. What’s more, this measure is the first of its kind in the country and if it passes, could become model legislation for other states looking to legalize and set up a functioning cannabis economy. The ten other states that so far have legalized marijuana have done so by a ballot referendum or, in Vermont’s case, by legislation that didn’t allow for regulated sales.

The current proposal was released hurriedly from committee and comes in at 176 pages. With accompanying medical and expungement bills, the entire package comes close to 300 pages. It’s not clear whether there will be enough votes to approve the bill, which requires 21 in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly for passage. While Gov. Phil Murphy has been hitting the phones to drum up votes in support of the legislation, it’s unknown how steadfast the opposition is, whether they have been holding out their support due to principle or just looking to horse-trade.

Among legislators reportedly leaning towards “no” votes, Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) said a lack of transparency is keeping him from supporting the bill.

“All three of these bills are complicated,” Bateman said at the hearing Monday before abstaining from voting. “This is going to really change the dynamics in New Jersey … do you really think we can digest this?”

The legislation — which contains over 20 changes from the previous version — was last up for a public hearing in November 2018 and even then, public testimony was restricted. On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to hear public testimony, sending a packed room of New Jerseyans home. On the Assembly committee side, public comments were limited to three minutes.

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