The future of weed was looking bright in the Garden State, but in a twist, New Jersey delays fully legal marijuana over state legislature disagreements.
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New Jersey voted to legalize recreational marijuana two months ago. Now, uncertainty looms over the state, as doubts arise on whether recreational legal will actually be legal or not.
Disagreements on key issues
Democrats are currently disagreeing on key issues on the legalization bill. Gov. Phil Murphy has two proposals on the table and could sign or veto either of them.
One of the bills addresses legal sales of pot and the other decriminalization. There was a floor vote set for next Monday but it will no longer be happening.
The “clean-up bill” is the biggest issue
Marijuana legalization in the Garden State is tied to enabling legislation. The bill that presents the most issues is Bill S33-20, also known as the Clean-up bill.
It focuses on minors and adults under 21 years and it came around after the Legislature had passed the legal weed and decriminalization bills. This landed them on Gov. Murphy’s hands.
In short, the clean-up bill is meant to add penalties for underage use of pot. However, advocates state that the penalties traced in the bill are too much and some senators also objected.
So far, penalties for underage marijuana possession can be driver’s license suspension and a potential referral into drug treatment programs.
Legislative Black and Latino caucuses won’t support clean-up bill
Members of the Legislative Black and Latino caucuses said Friday that they won’t support this bill, because they believe the language and its penalties would most affect communities of color.
They also think the bill would allow police to give a curbside warning or “stationhouse adjustment” for minors who are caught in possession of weed.
Some of these were described as a signed agreement between the minor, their family and a local police department that calls for some form of restitution without the department filing juvenile delinquency changes.
Evident racial disparities in law enforcement
Racial disparities are evident and this translates to who gets more affected by measures and laws like this one. Social justice activists protested the potential law, saying police departments discriminate against black people without justification.
The current legalization on Gov. Murphy’s hands would legalize pot use for people 21 or older.
Voters approved of legal marijuana on Election Day
The measure was approved through a ballot question last Election Day. 2.7 million voters approved for marijuana to be “lawful and subject to regulations”.
It specifically states that marijuana is only legal for adults 21 or older. Since these concerns arose, the bill’s sponsor withdrew it from consideration in the Senate on Monday, when it seemed it would pass.
No deadline in sight for legislature to move forward
Unfortunately, the entire situation is still at a standstill. The legislature has no deadline as they figure details out for regulations and until there’s regulations the drug isn’t legal.
There’s hope that changes will be made soon but many last-minute changes have happened. Advocates think the process hasn’t been transparent enough.
Other issues with marijuana bills
The process has fallen apart several times as new issues come to the table.
The first issue was tax revenue, as social justice activists claimed the original version of the marijuana laws didn’t do enough for black communities.
This landed in a unique two-tax structure that dedicates 70% of sales tax revenue and all revenue from an additional user fee to 22 different impact zones, cities that meet a certain criteria.
After that, they couldn’t agree on how many cannabis cultivators could be licensed in the state. Licenses cap at 37 for the first two years.
Employers may also choose to keep a drug-free workplace and allow their workers to consume weed on off-hours, as long as they’re sober at work and their jobs don’t have federal drug-free requirements, as weed is still illegal on a federal level.