Measure could come to floor vote next week, but some pols disturbed over irregularities during hearings, raise concerns about ‘good governing’
After hours of closed-door meetings, vocal opposition from the Republican delegation, and severely limited public testimony, state lawmakers voted the newly amended marijuana bill out of both Senate and Assembly committees late on Monday night. The final vote count in the Senate Judiciary committee was six yes, four no, one abstention, and in the Assembly Appropriations committee the bill was voted out six yes, one no and two abstentions.
“Marijuana prohibition has failed,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated, and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades.”
The bill, called the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Modernization Act,” would legalize adult possession or use of one ounce or less (28.38 grams) of marijuana and set up a system for taxing and regulating the new cannabis economy along with expunging the records of those who have been convicted of minor marijuana offenses. Now that it has left committee, the bill will head to the full legislative floor for a vote as early as next week. If it passes, New Jersey will be the first state in the country to legalize, tax, and regulate a cannabis market through legislation.
With such a weighty task before them, some lawmakers expressed their distaste for the process by which the bill was heard in committee: hearings delayed for six hours, bills being printed even as the vote was being counted, members of the public sent home and told there would be no testimony heard.
Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) a strong opponent of legalization, took issue with the vote itself noting that three voting members, Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson), Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), and Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) left votes despite not being physically present at the 7 p.m. hearing.