Over the past six months, cannabis legislation in New Jersey has been a hotly debated topic. Since the promise of Murphy’s campaign to legalize, the debates and negotiations have not stopped among legislators. Since our March update, a lot has changed.
As of May 2019, the hopes of recreational marijuana legalization in New Jersey went flat when Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced that he was ending efforts to pass the legal marijuana bill in the state legislature because there were not enough votes. Instead, it was proposed that lawmakers will ask the New Jersey voters in November 2020 to decide on marijuana legalization in the state. Sweeney also mentioned that lawmakers will be moving forward with bills to expand the medical marijuana program and expunge records of New Jersey residents with past convictions from possessing small amounts of marijuana.
By July, Governor Murphy signed a bill that overhauls New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. The law will add dozens of medical marijuana providers and will take steps to make the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card easier for patients. The new law features relaxed rules on how much patients can buy and how many times they must see a doctor before qualifying for the medical marijuana program. Before this bill, there were only six medical marijuana providers in the state, and as more and more patients obtained their medical cards, marijuana was in short supply across the state. Since then, New Jersey has been accepting applications for new medical dispensaries.
As for the bill to expunge marijuana-related records, in June, both the state Senate and Assembly passed a bill that would make changes. This bill would make clearing criminal records easier and would allow people to clear their records immediately. Governor Murphy still has yet to sign this bill into law. The opposition of this bill has been that it allows people to clear their record but does not do anything to stop marijuana arrests. If the bill is signed, anyone who is arrested would have to wait 18 months to apply for expungement.
Now in August, Murphy has announced that he’d like to take another shot this year at passing a legal marijuana bill. In response to that, Sweeney announced that he will not give up trying to pass the bill. The issue back in March was top lawmakers fell just a few votes short of what they needed to pass the bill. Top lawmakers believe that legalizing marijuana is important seeing as 34,500 New Jersey residents were arrested on marijuana-related charges in 2017 alone.
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