New Jersey Officials Moving Forward With New Marijuana Legislation

New Jersey lawmakers are advancing cannabis legislation after residents voted to approve it.
New Jersey Officials Moving Forward With New Marijuana Legislation

Less than a week after voters in New Jersey resoundingly passed a measure to legalize adult use marijuana, lawmakers in the state moved forward on plans to implement the new law.

A pair of related bills passed out of two separate legislative committees on Monday, the Senate Judiciary and Assembly Oversight committees, with the aim to implement Question 1, the legalization measure that was approved overwhelmingly last week at the ballot box. 

According to NORML, the pair of companion bills “would allow adults 21 and older to legally possess and purchase up to one ounce of marijuana,” as established by last week’s ballot question, while also allowing “for home delivery, on-site consumption, protections for employees, students, parents, tenants, and those needing organ transplants, among other provisions.”

Still, disagreements and hurdles remain. NORML noted that lawmakers “failed to include provisions allowing adults to cultivate marijuana for personal use,” while the Asbury Park Press reported that lawmakers “may put an additional tax on legal weed and dedicate revenue to social service programs after hearing hours of complaints Monday.”

The Asbury Park Press said that Monday featured “lengthy hearings” in the state capital of Trenton, “which drew dozens of people to testify in favor or opposed, signaled that the coming weeks will be fevered and full of last-minute changes as lawmakers rush to implement legalization.”

The newspaper also said that early indications are that key players in the legislative wrangling, Gov. Phli Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, are “at odds” over taxation.

New Jersey’s Ballot Measure

The haste with which lawmakers have responded to last week’s vote is a byproduct of the nature of Question 1, which as a non-binding ballot question that was referred by the legislature, requires that lawmakers “must now take immediate action to draft and implement enabling legislation in a manner that is in accordance with voters’ sentiments,” according to NORML. 

Sixty-seven percent of New Jersey voters approved Question 1 last week, as the Garden State joined a growing number of other states and cities to end prohibition on recreational pot use.

Election Day also saw voters in Arizona, South Dakota and Montana approve measures legalizing recreational pot, while South Dakota and Mississippi also passed medical marijuana measures.

“This is a great day for New Jersey. After years of political inaction, voters have definitively approved marijuana legalization,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said last week after the outcome was settled. “The passage of this ballot measure positions New Jersey to take the lead in the Northeast and will push neighboring states, like New York and Pennsylvania, to take action on marijuana legalization.” 

After failing to pass a bill legalizing marijuana last year, New Jersey lawmakers approved a measure that put the question on the 2020 ballot. Last week’s results provide some redemption for both advocates and lawmakers who had expected to approve legalization last year. Murphy, the Democratic governor, campaigned on ending prohibition when he was elected in 2018. After the legislature cleared the way for the question to be put on the ballot, Murphy expressed confidence that “New Jersey will move one step closer to righting a historical wrong and achieving what I have spent more than three years advocating for.” 

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