The state Legislature is set today to take up, and possibly vote on, a comprehensive bill that would make recreational use of cannabis by adults legal in the Garden State
Almost a year after Gov. Phil Murphy took office promising to legalize adult recreational cannabis use, the state Legislature is planning to take up the issue today in both the Senate and the Assembly.
Lawmakers have released a proposed bill that covers issues from taxes, requirements for retail, wholesale and distribution, conditions for locations and persons eligible for licensure, the role of law enforcement and even specifications for marketing. The 152-page document is called the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act.” Committees are expected to hear testimony and vote on it as early as this afternoon.
The billhas been amended since its first introduction and finally been released after months of closed-door negotiations. The legislation in the Senate is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union). In the Assembly, it is A-4497 sponsored by Assembly members Annette Quijano (D-Union), Jamel Holley (D-Union) and Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex). Another bill in the Assembly (A-4498) would deal with expungements of related criminal records in more detail.
The reasons for the legalization of cannabis, according to the bill, are principally to “strike a blow at the illegal enterprises that profit from New Jersey’s current, unregulated illegal market” and also to use the tax revenue generated “to bolster effective, evidence-based drug treatment and education, and to reinvest in New Jersey communities.”
“New Jersey cannot afford to sacrifice its public safety and civil rights by continuing its ineffective and wasteful past marijuana enforcement policies,” the text of the bill reads.
Priority for Democrats
Legalizing adult-use cannabis has been a priority for Democrats during this legislative session as they were unable to make any headway under former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. They’ve cited data showing cannabis arrests cause extensive harm to communities of color and that arrests take up significant law-enforcement time and resources in the state.