Historic vote! New Jersey Senate and Assembly Committees advance bills to legalize and regulate marijuana
If you live in New Jersey, please ask your lawmakers to vote to end marijuana prohibition.
Today, November 26, New Jersey’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and Assembly Appropriations Committee voted in favor of S2703 and A4497, which would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over. Please click here to thank lawmakers who voted yes or ask your lawmakers to do so when the bill comes to up for a vote of the whole chamber. If New Jersey passes a bill this year, it will make history as the first state to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana through the legislature (as opposed to a ballot initiative).
This is not the end of the debate; even some of the lawmakers who abstained or voted no indicated they might reconsider, and some of those who voted yes said they still wanted to see additional changes to the bill. It’s critical that your lawmakers continue to hear from you. If you have a moment after you send an email, please consider calling your lawmakers as well. Their phone numbers are listed here.
In other good news, the Assembly also voted to advance an expungement bill that would make it easier for people to clear their records, which MPP also supported.
While the new bill to legalize and regulate marijuana has not yet been revealed to the public, lawmakers and the Murphy administration are reportedly close to reaching a deal. However, it is not yet clear what the legislature intends to do to help people who are still suffering from the collateral consequences of a prior marijuana conviction.
If you’re a New Jersey resident, please ask your lawmakers to support not only ending marijuana prohibition for adults moving forward, but also ensuring that those harmed by prohibition in the past are able to clear their records and move on with their lives.
New Jersey has been hotly debating the best way to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis since Gov. Phil Murphy made that an important part of his campaign in 2017. MPP continues to advocate for adopting the best practices of other states to ensure that legalization allows opportunities for people impacted by marijuana prohibition and small businesses, and we’re encouraged that these ideas are reportedly being included in the legislation.
However, we want to continue fighting to include criminal justice reform as well. If you live in New Jersey, please help by asking your legislators to include strong expungement provisions now.
It was a confusing news cycle, with Jersey City’s municipal prosecutor, Jake Hudnut, releasing a memo effectively decriminalizing marijuana locally and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal declaring that action invalid. Now, AG Grewal has told all prosecutors to “adjourn” (postpone) marijuana prosecutions in municipal court until at least September 4, when his office will issue new guidance.
Hopefully, the state will legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana prior to that, and people with pending cases will never be prosecuted. If you are a New Jersey resident, your lawmakers need to hear from you! Please click here to ask them to end New Jersey’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition today, before one more person is branded with a criminal conviction for choosing to use a substance safer than alcohol.
In other good news, Asm. Jamel Holley announced plans to propose amendments to improve upon Sen. Nick Scutari’s bill to tax and regulate marijuana, such as making it easier to expunge prior marijuana convictions. We hope the final bill will also include small business opportunities and provisions that ensure that people harmed by prohibition have an opportunity to participate in all aspects of the industry.
Good news! Today, the New Jersey Department of Health announced that it will begin accepting applications for six additional businesses that can grow, process, and sell medical cannabis in the state. The winning businesses are supposed to be announced on November 1. Unfortunately, there is no provision yet for equity applicants, although applicants may be awarded up to 50 (out of 1,000) points for diversity.
With the tiny number of existing businesses, patients have experienced supply shortages and high prices due to a lack of competition. Today’s expansion should help begin to address these problems, although more will need to be done. Separating the licenses for growing, processing, and selling cannabis will help make many more types of products available to patients, and the health department plans to consider additional applications for these licenses beginning in the fall.
In other news, while the June 30 budget deadline came and went without legislative action on any of the pending marijuana bills, Senate President Steve Sweeny has said he believes there could be a vote on legalizing and regulating this summer.
In partnership with the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association (NJCIA), the Marijuana Policy Project is bringing supporters together for a friendly golf competition at the Linwood Country Club in New Jersey as we ramp up legalization efforts statewide. Please join us just across the bay from Atlantic City as we bring policymakers, politicians, cannabis industry experts, and friends together for a round of golf followed by a cocktail reception on Sunday, July 15.
We are grateful to Gov. Phil Murphy for his commitment to ending marijuana prohibition in New Jersey. As a trusted leader in marijuana policy reform, MPP has worked on the front lines of changing marijuana policies and laws, both federal and state, for 23 years. Our event partner, the NJCIA, is the state’s largest nonprofit trade organization dedicated to advancing the legalization of cannabis through sensible policies that optimize the responsible growth and development of New Jersey’s cannabis industry.
FORMAT OF PLAY:
Better ball scramble
SCHEDULE FOR THE DAY:
1 p.m.: Afternoon Shotgun Start FOR GOLFERS ONLY
5-8 p.m.: Cocktail Reception and BBQ, Awards Ceremony and Program
Individual Golfer: $350 per person
Foursome: $1,400 per foursome
Cocktail Reception and BBQ ONLY: $125 per person
For sponsorship opportunities or for more information, please contact Dara Servis of the NJCIA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration fee for golfers includes food and beverages during the day and also includes the cocktail reception and barbecue at the al fresco bar and dining patio overlooking the course. Menus are created by the same legendary team behind the acclaimed Dock’s Oyster House, Knife and Fork Inn, and Harry’s Oyster Bar in Atlantic City.
Bally's Casino in Atlantic City
Number to call for room registration: (888) 516-2215
Group Name: NJCIA Room Block
Group Code: SB07NJ8 Bally's
For online booking, use this link.
New Jersey lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy agree that the state needs revenue to fund important priorities, such as improving the transit system, but disagree on how to get it. One thing leaders do agree on, however, is taxing the sale of cannabis: The Assembly and Senate budgets contain $69 million from marijuana taxes. That figure is more than could realistically be earned from medical cannabis sales tax alone, but is a small amount compared to what the state will eventually earn from taxing and regulating marijuana. However, this conservative projection makes sense given the time it will take to get adult-use sales up and running after the bill is passed.
It’s great that more and more lawmakers recognize that marijuana prohibition has failed, and that the state can benefit from taxing and regulating it. However, we want to urge lawmakers to ensure that the harms of prohibition are addressed in the legalization bill.
Asw. Annette Quijano, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, recently held a hearing (at which MPP testified) on her bill to help do just that, by ensuring that people with a marijuana offense on their record will have meaningful access to expungement if New Jersey legalizes cannabis. Unfortunately, the current legalization bills do not go far enough.
If you are a New Jersey resident, please ask your lawmakers to support legalization and to ensure that New Jersey gives people an opportunity to benefit from legalization instead of continuing to be burdened with the collateral consequences of a criminal record.
Yesterday, Gov. Phil Murphy held a press conference to announce numerous changes to the medical marijuana program in New Jersey that will greatly improve patient access. These include:
- Approving additional qualifying conditions under a process that was begun in 2016 — including chronic pain and opioid use disorder — which will help reduce opioid dependence and overdose.
- Setting up a process to add additional businesses and remove the vertical integration requirement, which will increase competition and therefore reduce prices for patients.
- Eliminating the physician registry, so that all doctors who wish to do so can recommend medical cannabis to their patients without jumping through hoops.
- Removing the 10% THC cap imposed by regulation, because some patients need products with more THC for the most effective treatment.
In addition, the Department of Health’s report recommended additional changes, which would have to be made by the legislature. These include increasing the amount of cannabis that patients can purchase each month and allowing patients of all ages to purchase edibles if that’s their preferred delivery method.
You can read the Department of Health's full report here. MPP will continue to work with the administration as it implements these changes,
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated his commitment to voters in his budget yesterday, which states that: “New Jersey will join other progressive states such as California, Massachusetts, Washington, and Colorado by legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana,” by January 1, 2019. In his speech, he also refuted claims by opponents that decriminalization alone would address the harms of marijuana prohibition.
“Decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids, and it will not end the racial disparities we see,” he said. “If these are our goals — as they must be — then the only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults.”
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. If you are a New Jersey resident, please thank Gov. Murphy for his continued commitment to sensible marijuana policy and urge your lawmakers to support ending prohibition in New Jersey.
MPP is excited to be moving into 2018 at a time when marijuana policy reform has unprecedented momentum. While there are sure to be challenges ahead, MPP is confident that we will make great strides this year.
You can find the strategic plan here.
In a great sign of things to come, one of our goals is already on the verge of success. On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that would make possession and limited home cultivation legal in the Green Mountain State! The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.
Gov. Chris Christie has said that he is the “only impediment” to taxing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey — and he is leaving office in January 2018. Phil Murphy (D), who has repeatedly touted his support for legalization, beat Kim Guadagno (R) by about 10 percentage points and will be the next governor!
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), sponsor of the bill to end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey, won easily, and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), another vocal supporter of legalization, was also victorious.
New Jersey is now well-placed to be the first state to end marijuana prohibition through the legislative process (as opposed to a citizens’ ballot initiative) — but a bill still won’t pass without hard work. And the details of the bill — things like ensuring people who have been criminalized for marijuana possession can expunge their records once marijuana possession is legalized — will require close attention to guarantee New Jersey implements the best possible public policy.