legalization hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Nick Scutari (D-Union) aborted the second of two legalization hearings regarding the compromise cannabis bill S. 3454.

The first of the last legalization hearings was held Monday. The second last legalization hearing was supposed to be held yesterday. Despite alluding to the cannabis bill that was supposed to be voted on after the exhaustive Monday hearing, Scutari ultimately said it would be heard in a hearing today. At the time, he didn’t know when it would be. It was briefly scheduled for 3 pm today before being taken down.

Last Legalization Hearing Tumult

The final(?) legalization vote was initially scheduled for the full legislature on Thursday during their scheduled voting session. However, that has been moved to Friday due to an impending snowstorm. The move might give them more time to find a solution. However, since they have had since the beginning of January to find a solution, it is not likely more time will solve the impasse.

In the aborted last legalization hearing yesterday, when addressing other criminal justice reforms, Scutari compared prohibition to the “definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting the same result.” 

Sanjay Chaudhari of the Cannabis Wars Alliance testified on a mandatory minimum sentence bill that preceded the aborted legalization hearing and said Scutari should fight for more significant reforms.

“Incremental is challenging enough as it is,” Scutari said.

“You want amendments? We’re still 48 hours from contention. Wish us luck sir,” he replied to Chaudhari in response to his call for further reform, like homegrow.  

He really needs that luck.

After the aborted second legalization hearing, Scutari said to NJ Globe there might be a third clean-up bill. The third one would be a much simpler one. 

For clarification, the first clean-up bill failed on January 8th. The second clean-up bill passed an Assembly committee on January 29th. The NJ Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to pass a companion to the second one yesterday on February 16th. 

Choudary noted the discrepancy when legalization when into effect. Some believe legalization took effect on January 1st, while many police disagree. Officially, it likely it is not supposed to start until the enabling bill is signed. In reality, at this rate, we’re at least a year from the first dispensary cannabis being sold.

On Monday, the latest version was supposed to have amendments that were alluded to that continued to reduce the severity of the penalties imposed. Those penalties might be insufficiently severe to some while too harsh to others. Thus, it seems there are not enough votes for the second clean-up bill at this point.

Noted prohibitionist Ron Rice (D-Essex) was present for the aborted last legalization hearing even though he is not a member of the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators are allowed to substitute for others who are not there. He was likely there to stall the process, and one way or another seems to have succeeded.

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