After months of debating, the New Jersey marijuana legalization bill was set to finally receive a vote. The bill is known as the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act. It came to life in the middle of the marijuana boom within the Northeast, setting New Jersey on the road to becoming the 11th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It would also become the nearest legalization to New York City, the nation’s largest city. Although there was a great effort put into passing the bill, the vote was canceled by Democratic lawmakers on Monday, March 25. It was postponed to an unknown date in the future.
Mayors of both Newark and Jersey City believe that the legalization of marijuana is “the most important controversial policy issue of our time.” The new act has 3 bills in total, all of which are centered around current marijuana issues. The main points of the act are:
- 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 required 21 votes in the Senate in order to pass. Many legislators had high hopes that the bill would pass, believing it would send a strong message to the rest of the country about marijuana legalization. Legislators were not the only ones on the side of legalization, as polls showed that many New Jersey residents also supported the notion.
Despite this support, several other legislators did not agree with the legalization. They pushed back on the bill, arguing over the potential impact the bill would have if marijuana was legalized in New Jersey. Concerns were raised regarding the increase of crime in urban areas, driving under the influence, keeping drugs away from kids, and its effect on public health. Although the vote passed through the Assembly Appropriations and the Senate Judiciary Committees last week, only 17 or 18 Senate members agreed to vote in favor of the bill in the next vote. This left the bill about 4 votes short of approval.
Even though the vote was postponed, Senate members do not feel as if the fight is over. 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 plans to move forward with the bill in saying, “We’ll be back at this … Anybody who thinks this is dead is wrong.”