Assembly Committees in New Jersey Senate Advance Cannabis Bill

Legal cannabis is inching closer to becoming a reality in the Garden State.
Assembly Committees in New Jersey Senate Advance Cannabis Bill

New Jersey made its way back in headlines when legislative Assembly committees in the state Senate advanced a bill to regulate legal cannabis within state lines and bring the new state industry to life. 

Of course, the last time New Jersey was being lauded for their recreational cannabis progress was earlier this month, when residents voted to make cannabis legal. Now, the state is faced with a task. Before legal cannabis can become a reality, regulatory processes must be there to keep things operating smoothly. 

Now, the Assembly Appropriations Committee has voted 7-4 to pass on A21, a plan to enforce and regulate social use. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed S21, a mirror of A21, 8-4. In both Committees, the legal language was cleared to pass. 

A few things were already set in stone in the state’s cannabis code, including making the substance legal for those 21 and over. According to the new law, those of legal age could use and possess cannabis, a state commission can be formed to oversee the sale of cannabis. Now, the race is on to establish a way to regulate recreational cannabis. 

“We’ve got to get this done by the end of the year,” the legislation’s lead sponsor, Sen. Nick Scutari (D), was quoted as saying at the Assembly panel hearing regarding the bill. “If we don’t, we’re going to run into a myriad of other problems.”

It’s also an intentional move that there are two mirror versions of the bill passing through New Jersey legislation. 

“Our language will be different than what the Assembly has,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo (D), chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, “which will allow us to negotiate.”

A Greener Garden State

It’s not surprising that the Senate is taking such a liberal view of cannabis and jumping in to help regulate the new industry. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee have already approved legislation that would reduce previous cannabis offenses and decriminalize cannabis. 

“The voters approved legalizing adult-use marijuana (earlier this month), so now it is time we decriminalize it so that folks in Black and Brown communities across the state do not continue to be disproportionately arrested for possession,” state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex claimed in a statement. “Decriminalization is the long-sought remedy for rampant injustice in our state.”

While advocates remain optimistic about legal cannabis in the state, they also want to see the new program put into place with intention. As cannabis law is discussed throughout the state, there is pressure from the public to return cannabis profits to an equity program that would provide workforce training and loans to those negatively impacted by a war on drugs. 

“Even if the bill does not pass right now in its current form, the sky will not fall,” said Tauhid Chappell, a local journalist and cannabis advocate quoted during the public comment period of the legislation. 

One way or another, legal cannabis has reached New Jersey. It just remains to be seen how the state plans to regulate the budding industry.

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