New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Latest Marijuana ‘Clean Up’ Bill Amid Week Of Uncertainty

MJ moment

It’s been a rocky road to implementing marijuana regulations in New Jersey since voters approved a legalization referendum in November. But on Friday, a key Senate committee advanced a “clean up” bill designed to satisfy requests from Gov. Phil Murphy (D). The legislature has already sent enabling legislation to the governor’s desk, but he’s yet to take action on it because he’s pushing for the inclusion of cannabis-related penalties for underage people. A newly revised bill to address the issue cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 6-2 vote, with one abstention. As amended, the legislation would make underage possession of marijuana subject to a written warning. That policy would also apply to underage alcohol consumption, which is currently considered a petty disorderly persons offense. Another amendment would make it so 15 percent of cannabis tax revenue goes to “underage deterrence and prevention.”  This is a notable development in a week that’s seen significant ups and downs when it comes to marijuana policy in New Jersey. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on an earlier version of clean up bill on Monday, but planned votes on Tuesday and Wednesday were cancelled by Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D). Scutari had said on Wednesday that the governor’s request to add penalties for underage marijuana use was sufficiently addressed in the December legislation that’s already on his desk and “all avenues to clarify it any further are exhausted.” Advocates have pushed back against Murphy’s underage penalties request, arguing that it threatens to perpetuate the consequences of racially discriminatory enforcement practices. It remains to be seen whether the newly amended bill that advanced out of committee will address Murphy’s concerns, or if it has enough support within the Senate and Assembly to even get to the governor’s desk. But floor votes on the revised…

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