cannabis

Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex) announced Friday a revised schedule for Assembly Committee hearings, so there is more time to whip votes for the cannabis bill.

“In order for the Senate to complete its discussions and conclude negotiations with the Assembly and Governor on revisions to the cannabis legislation (A-5342) that was approved by the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee on January 29, 2021, I am rescheduling Assembly committee hearings originally slated for February 8, 2021,” Coughlin said. The 8th is Monday.

The enabling and decriminalization bills automatically become law if not vetoed 45 days after they were passed on December 17.  

“Voters overwhelmingly support the legalization of cannabis, and we are taking every step necessary to assure legalization and decriminalization become law,” Coughlin said. “Significant progress has been made, and we are hopeful that concerns raised will be able to be addressed. I remain optimistic an agreement will be reached and that fair and responsible legislation will be advanced, which will facilitate A-21 and A-1897 becoming law.”

“Significant progress” is not defined here. It likely means the progress made in passing the bill more than 45 days ago rather than progress on negotiations.

Last Friday, a compromise bill quickly passed the Assembly Committee Development and Affairs committee. The bill was sponsored by Benjie Wimberly (D-Passaic) and praised by committee chair Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic) and Bill Spearman (D-Camden). They are all Black Caucus members, which has eyed every cannabis wearily due to Ron Rice’s influence (D-Essex).

“I have therefore scheduled a quorum call, voting session, and committee hearings for February 18,” Coughlin said.

It will be interesting to see if the deadline will need to be moved again for lack of action again.

For a process that was supposed to be finished by New Year’s, this is becoming astounding.

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