Murphy, top Dems: glass half full on marijuana legalization

By: Daniel J. Munoz

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s “optimistic” about finalizing a deal on a long-awaited bill to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in New Jersey, but he has no timeline on when that will happen or when lawmakers will vote on the measure.

“We’re still trying to machine this to get it over the goal line, but I think we’re all working really hard to get this done,” Murphy said at an unrelated press conference in Piscataway late Tuesday morning.

According to media reports, Murphy and the state Legislature’s two top Democrats — Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District — struck a deal late last week to enact a flat $42/ounce tax on marijuana.

Under the deal, regulation of the industry would be in the hands of the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission — Murphy would be able to pick three members without needing Senate approval.

“We had a very productive meeting Thursday,” Murphy added, which drew out the agreement of Coughlin, who also attended the bill signing event Tuesday expanding paid family leave. “This is complicated. We’re standing up an entire industry from scratch.”

“I think we’re all optimistic about being able to get the ball over the goal line,” Coughlin said.

Murphy would likely have to drum up support in the Senate and Assembly to get the votes — 21 and 41 respectively — to pass the measure and get the bill to his desk. But Murphy did not have any update on the progress of those lobbying efforts.