The timeline for legal weed in New Jersey may have just sped up. According to key policy makers in the state, legislative bodies may start voting on legalization bills as soon as next week.
Jumpstarting the Legislative Process
Talk of a new timeline for beginning the legislative process recently came from the office of New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney. According to news source Patch, Sweeney’s office issued a statement outlining a possible new timeline for voting on legalization.
In particular, committees from the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate will reportedly hold a hearing in the very near future. Then, if Sweeney’s new timeline unfolds according to plans, lawmakers would vote on a legalization bill on Monday, November 26.
But even if these plans materialize, more action will be needed before The Garden State fully legalizes weed. For example, the full Assembly would still need to vote. Similarly, the full state Senate would also need to weigh in with a vote of their own. And finally, assuming a bill passes all these milestones, Governor Phil Murphy would need to sign off on it.
So far, it’s unclear whether or not a legalization bill would receive all the votes it would need to pass. In fact, there seems to be relatively strong support and opposition.
For example, Assemblyman Ronald Rice is reportedly wary of moving at this pace. Sources indicate that he would rather move through a slower process of decriminalization first, and then possibly full legalization.
On the other hand, the pro-legalization camp has some strong allies. Perhaps most notably, Gov. Murphy. Almost immediately after taking office earlier this year, Murphy began working to expand the accessibility of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. More recently, he said he would be in favor of acting relatively quick on a legalization bill.
“We’ve had good exchanges with both the legislative leadership sponsors and, most importantly, the teams in the trenches crafting this,” Murphy said at a recent Facebook live interview.
On the specific topic of legalization, he added: “I think it’s sooner than later.”
New Jersey’s Recreational Bill
Legalization has been a hot topic in New Jersey for years. And throughout that time, the state has seen a number of different legalization proposals.
The most recent legalization proposal was put forward in September. This version of a possible legalization bill included a handful of unique provisions.
For starters, this proposal calls for some of the lowest taxes of any weed-legal states. This topic remains up for debate, and is currently an issue of disagreement among lawmakers.
Similarly, September’s proposal called for the state to allow controlled smoking lounges. These special consumption areas would require businesses to obtain special state and local approval. But they would theoretically provide some sort of publicly accessible space for adults to consume legal weed.
Most notable, September’s legalization proposal included several provisions aimed at reversing the social, economic, and legal harm caused by prohibition.
For example, the proposal would set aside a certain number of business licenses for applicants from marginalized groups or from communities that have been disproportionately affected by prohibition.
Similarly, this most recent proposal would allow for expungement. This would make it possible for people charged with cannabis crimes in the past to wipe these charges from their records.