After months of back and forth debates, New Jersey’s marijuana legalization bill was finally set to be voted on. The bill, known as the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act, arose within the middle of the marijuana increase in the Northeast. The passing of the bill would have made New Jersey the 11th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It would also become the nearest legal state to the country’s largest city, New York. Although, despite the effort put into the bill, the vote was canceled by Democratic lawmakers on Monday, March 25. It is postponed to an unknown date in the future.
Both Newark and Jersey City mayors believe the marijuana debate is “the most important controversial policy issues of our time.” The state’s new act covered several topics relating to marijuana issues. The main goals 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 order to pass in the Senate. Many hoped the bill would pass, with the belief that it would send a message about legalizing marijuana to the rest of the country. Legislators were not the only ones with hope, with polls showing the majority of New Jersey residents support the legalization as well. Despite the support, there was still a push back on the passing of the bill.
Several other legislators did not agree with the legalization and disagreed with the content of the Act. Many Senate members argued about how the new legislation would impact the state if it were to be passed. Concerns regarding the increase of crime in urban areas, people driving under the influence, keeping drugs away from kids and teenagers, and the effect it would have on public health were tossed around amongst Senate members. While the vote passed through the Assembly Appropriations and the Senate Judiciary Committees just the week before, only 17 or 18 Senate members agreed to back up the bill going into their vote. This left the bill about 4 votes short from passing.
Even though the vote may have been canceled, for now, Democratic Senate members feel as if it can still be accomplished down the road. Democratic Governor Phil Murphy believes “Justice may be delayed, but justice will not be denied.” Senate President Steve Sweeney also stated that he intended to move forward with the bill, saying “We’ll be back at this … Anybody who thinks this is dead is wrong.”
If you have been charged with a crime in New Jersey, it is essential to retain the quality legal services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Office of Michael A. Policastro today to schedule a consultation so we can discuss your situation.