After months of intense debating, the New Jersey marijuana legalization bill was finally set to receive a vote. The bill, known as the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act, came in the midst of the marijuana boom within the Northeast. It set the state of New Jersey on the road to becoming the 11th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, also becoming the nearest legalization to the nation’s biggest city, New York City. Despite all of the effort put into passing the bill, the legalization vote was canceled by Democratic lawmakers on Monday, March 25 and postponed to an unknown date in the future.
The mayors from both Newark and Jersey City believe that marijuana is “the most important controversial policy issues of our time.” The new act, with 3 bills in total, were all in relation to marijuana issues. The main points of the act are as follows:
- Legalizing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana
- Larger possessions of marijuana would become a disorderly persons offense
- The creation of a new cannabis industry, allowing for weed dispensaries and license for individuals to produce, distribute, and sell marijuana products
- Tax marijuana at a flat rate of $42 per ounce
- Expedite expungements of marijuana offenses.
The Act needed 21 votes to pass in the Senate. Many legislators hoped the bill would pass, believing that it would send a strong message about marijuana legalization to the country. These legislators were not the only ones with hope, as polls showed that most New Jersey residents supported the legalization as well. So, where did the bill go wrong?
Despite this support, many legislators did not agree with the legalization and pushed back on the bill. Several Senate members argued back and forth over the impact the bill would have if marijuana was, in fact, legalized in the state. There were concerns regarding the increase of crime in urban areas, people driving under the influence, keeping drugs away from kids and teenagers, and the impact it would have on public health. While the vote passed through the Assembly Appropriations and the Senate Judiciary Committees last week, only 17 or 18 Senate members agreed to back up the bill leading into the next vote. This left the bill roughly 4 votes short of approval.
Even though the vote has been postponed, Senate members do not feel defeated. Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, who supported the bill, believes “Justice may be delayed, but justice will not be denied.” The Senate President, Steve Sweeney, also acknowledged his intent to move the bill forward by saying, “We’ll be back at this … Anybody who thinks this is dead is wrong.”
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