The New Jersey Assembly Oversight Committee scheduled a virtual hearing for the cannabis legalization implementation bill, A. 21, on Monday, Nov. 9th at 10 AM.
A. 21 is the Assembly version of S. 2703 sponsored by State Senator Nick Scutari (D-Union). That bill has expired since an election was held last year for the Assembly. According to the Office of Legislative Services, a new, similar bill will be introduced before the hearing.
Now that legalization passed in a landslide, lawmakers must pass legislation to implement the constitutional amendment. Legalization passed with 67 percent of the vote, exceeding many expectations.
The real question is what happens in the State Senate since that was where there were insufficient votes to pass the bill. Everyone agreed there were enough votes in the Assembly.
A Just Cannabis Implementation Bill
The ACLU-NJ and other advocates have called for racial and social justice in cannabis implementation.
“New Jerseyans overwhelmingly rejected the injustices and costs, human and financial, of the war on marijuana, and instead voted to create a new vision of justice,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha regarding the referendum.
On a Facebook live video yesterday, Governor Phil Murphy said New Jersey experienced record turnout in the election. He noted the cannabis victory Tuesday as well.
“The voters of New Jersey overwhelmingly passed the referendum that will allow for legal, adult-use, recreational cannabis. Obviously, we’re working with our legislative colleagues to get the enabling legislation,” Murphy said.
Many do not trust the legislators to pass a just bill.
“We’ll be naming commissioners and an executive director of the commission that will oversee this,” Murphy added.
The formation of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which will regulate adult-use cannabis, has been delayed due to a lawsuit.
It will be interesting to see what Murphy does to get the process moving.
Only one commissioner has been named so far. Cannabis experts largely agree Deputy NJ Department of Health Commissioner Jeff Brown will be the CRC’s Executive Director or Chair.
“We got there first and foremost overwhelming because of social justice,” Murphy said regarding the landslide that will lead to cannabis implementation. He noted the great numbers at which minorities are arrested.
Many are skeptical about whether cannabis implementation will actually stop arrests. Even if possession of street weed is decriminalized, police still plan to go after dealers. The amount that will be decriminalized remains to be seen.
“Unjust racial disparities have, for decades, defined enforcement of marijuana laws, and we must make sure that we now do everything in our power to ensure that racial justice defines legalization,” Sinha said.
In New Jersey, police make more than 32,000 arrests for cannabis possession annually, and minorities are four times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white people, despite similar usage.
“We’re gonna put that reality with this step into the rearview mirror,” Murphy said.
The question regarding the industry is whether small businesspeople will be favored, or it will be merely a continuation of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program where large corporations sell mediocre cannabis at high prices.
“It’s going to be an economic driver, a revenue driver, and more importantly, a jobs driver. I have to say that it is a big step for the state of New Jersey. It addresses a lot of social injustices,” Murphy said.
In other news, Cannabis prohibitionist ally and Democratic congressional candidate Amy Kennedy seems to be losing against Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional district.
State Democratic Chair John Currie said it would be another seven to ten days before all the votes are counted in the state.