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Law New Jersey

Baron23

Well-Known Member

N.J. could vote to legalize weed today. Or it could fall apart. Here’s the latest.


New Jersey on Monday could finally move just one step away from legalizing marijuana.

Or we may end up with months more of waiting.

After a year and a half of debate and delays, both houses of the state Legislature are scheduled to vote on an historic but controversial bill that would legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in the Garden State.

If the legislation passes at the Statehouse in Trenton, Gov. Phil Murphy — who promised legal pot during his election campaign — needs only to sign it into law for New Jersey to become the 11th U.S. state to legalize weed. It would be just the second state to do so legislatively, rather than through a public voter referendum.

Also at stake are two bills that have been tied to this measure: one that would expand the state’s oft-criticized medial marijuana program and another that would expunge thousands of pot convictions in the state.

But whether the vote actually happens Monday is still unclear.

Murphy and his fellow Democratic state leaders have spent the last week trying to wrangle enough votes for the Democratic-sponsored measure to pass the Democratic-controlled Legislature. And they reached out throughout the weekend to lawmakers either against the bill or on the fence, three sources with direct knowledge of the situation told NJ Advance Media.

Nevertheless, it’s still uncertain whether they’ve gathered the 21 votes they need in the state Senate and the 41 they need in the state Assembly.

Sources say it’s likely the bill will pass the Assembly. But as of Sunday night, sources said there were only 18 secured “yes” votes in the Senate. That would leave leaders three votes short less than 24 hours before the voting session.

Thus, the outcome may not be clear until Monday morning, when lawmakers begin to gather at the Statehouse.

“We’re pushing hard,” one source said of Murphy and legislative leaders.

If the votes aren’t guaranteed Monday, it’s likely the vote will be canceled and another may not be scheduled until the end of the year.

Murphy made legalizing pot a major campaign vow two years ago. And the state’s top Democratic lawmakers also support the plan. They say it will increase tax revenue for the state, create a whole new industry, and improve social justice because black people are three times more likely to be arrested on pot charges than whites.

“We have one chance to undo extraordinary social injustices that have built up over decades in a way that no state … in the history of our republic has ever done,” Murphy said at a recent news conference.

Recent polls show a majority of New Jerseyans support legal weed.

But many lawmakers from both major political parties have been against the plan, saying it could damage public safety, lead people to more dangerous drug use, and hurt communities of color.

The battle for votes heated up so much this week that actress Whoopi Goldberg, a West Orange resident, made calls to lawmakers to sway them.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Well...shite....I can't seem to post this stuff fast enough to keep up with the news. LOL

The solution is simple....you majority of NJ voters who favor MJ legalization need to vote yourself in some new legislative representatives.....who are NOT representing your views.


NJ legal weed vote canceled today after lack of support, but 'the fight is not over'

New Jersey lawmakers will not vote today on a plan to legalize marijuana, pulling back on a plan to end the prohibition on pot after supporters and activists failed to gain enough votes.

The future of legal weed remains unclear with legislative efforts likely on hold until after an election in November when all 80 seats in the Assembly are on the ballot — an election that weighed heavily on lawmakers who were uncertain New Jersey voters would ultimately back legalization.

"I'm disappointed. I think we were making headway. I think we've learned a few lessons about the way we approached it. If it was easy, every state would have done it this way," Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said at a news conference Monday afternoon, referring to the fact that Vermont is the only state to have legalized marijuana through legislation as opposed to a ballot initiative.

But he said that lawmakers will learn from the setback and "the legalization of adult-use marijuana will get passed in the state of New Jersey one way or another."

It wasn't immediately clear when another vote could happen. Monday's vote had been scheduled to try to pass the legalization measure before lawmakers turned their attention to crafting a new state budget by July 1. Then, as the Assembly races ramp up in the fall, holding a vote around that time could pose problems for lawmakers up for re-election.

When asked if a vote could be scheduled before November, Sweeney said, "could be."

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, echoed those sentiments in a separate statement that referenced two other pieces of legislation tied to the legalization effort. Those bills — to expand the state's medical marijuana program and overhaul the state's expungement process for crimes beyond those related to marijuana — now appear to also be delayed.

“I’m disappointed that the legislature was not able to secure sufficient support necessary to approve the adult-use cannabis, medicinal marijuana and expungement bills today, but this is still a historic day," Coughlin said. "We moved closer to the goal than ever before."

He added: “Today does not mark the end of the process and effort. I remain committed to enacting the legislation."Monday's scheduled vote came after years of lobbying by advocates who said the state's drug laws unfairly targeted minorities.

Prohibition also forced those who used marijuana to relieve pain or deal with medical issues to either face a cumbersome state program or buy the drug illegally. And, supporters said, ending the ban would allow New Jersey to build a billion-dollar marijuana business and reap tax rewards.

But the vote was never a certainty
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

Murphy shelves his promised expansion of medical marijuana while leaders work on a new legal weed deal


Gov. Phil Murphy has withdrawn a planned announcement to forge ahead with a massive expansion of the New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana program, one day after a failed attempt to pass a bill to legalize recreational pot in the state, sources told NJ Advance Media.

Hours after top state lawmakers called off the legal weed measure Monday, Murphy told a town hall audience he was prepared to announce Tuesday or Wednesday that state would seek applications for dozens of new growers, cultivators and retailers for the medicinal program that currently relies on six operators serving 42,000 patients.

He said such a move could boost enrollment to as many as 200,000 patients.

“We’ll likely aggressively further open up the medical regime in the next day or two,” the Democratic governor said during the event at a Union City elementary school, adding the number of people enrolled in the program “probably should be at 150,000 or 200,000.”

But after Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly pledged to reach a compromise on the adult-use recreation bill, hopefully by sometime in May, the Murphy administration Tuesday afternoon agreed to hold off on the medical program’s expansion, according to four sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


What’s next for legal weed in N.J.? Lawmakers are already planning the next vote.

After a much anticipated marijuana vote was canceled on Monday, Murphy and state lawmakers are regrouping.
Lawmakers expressed worry that Murphy’s plan to expand the medical marijuana program would hurt their ability to gather votes for legal weed, according to two legislative sources.

They said the concern is that there would be less incentive for lawmakers to back legal weed without connecting it to expanding medical marijuana and that it would cause votes to be peeled away.

One of the sources familiar with the discussions said if there was still not enough support for legalization by the end of May, Murphy would consider expanding the program.

The bill expanding the medicinal marijuana program includes home delivery services, a reduction in the frequency of patient visits to their doctor’s offices to renew their enrollment, and permission to buy as much as three ounces a month, up from two ounces of cannabis.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Murphy says he’s ’not gonna wait around’ long for medical marijuana expansion now tied to legal weed. He sets a deadline.

Days after he shelved plans to expand medical marijuana to cover up to 200,000 patients in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he’ll give the state Legislature until May to pass a bill legalizing recreational weed in the state or else he’ll turn his focus to medicinal pot.

“We’re not gonna wait around a lot,” Murphy said at an unrelated news conference in Saddle Brook.

The comment came on the heels of a confusing week for those anxious to see the medical marijuana program expand beyond the roughly 42,000 patients already enrolled.

First, Murphy said increasing the number of people using medical marijuana would be his top priority after a recreational weed bill failed to get enough support for a planned vote Monday in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Legislative leaders have packaged the legal and medical pot bills together to garner more support for the former.

“We’ll likely aggressively further open up the medical regime in the next day or two,” the Democratic governor said at a town hall meeting Monday, just hours after the legal weed vote was called off.

He added the number of people enrolled in the program “probably should be at 150,000 or 200,000.”

Less than a day later, Murphy changed his tune and said he’d hold off on those plans in an effort to appease leaders in the state Senate who have insisted the separate recreational weed bill and medical expansion bill should be voted on together in order to corral more support for legalization.

That move angered medical marijuana supporters, including Mike Honig, whose 7-year-old son, Jake Honig, used cannabis oil to control excruciating pain before he died from cancer last year.

“We are putting patients in New Jersey behind pleasure-seekers,” Mike Honig said in video he posted online. “We are putting our own personal agenda ahead of the terminally ill child.”

Murphy said the Honig family reached out to him personally this week.

“We’re holding back enormous demand for the medical regime and Jack’s parents are right,” the governor said. “I’m prepared to hold off for a short amount of time and I would say that the month of May would be the edge of that.”

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, are adamant that until they’ve secured enough votes to pass a bill legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older, they will not post the medical expansion bill for vote.

They’ve publicly acknowledged they are “tie-barring,” or linking, the two bills, hoping support for improving the restrictive medicinal program will bring some yes votes for the recreational weed.

The "Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act” would allow terminal and hospice patients unlimited amount of cannabis. Other patients would be able to buy 2.5 ounces a month for the first six months after the law takes effect and rise to 3 ounces six months later, according to the bill (S10).

If the delays in passing both bills continue, said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, one of the prime sponsors of the medicinal legislation, said he could envision portion of his bill could move separately.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Legal weed remains stalled in N.J. as politicians don’t know how to solve this big issue

As New Jersey’s leaders aim to pass a bill by the end of next month to legalize marijuana in the state, they’re grappling with a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t dilemma that’s threatening their efforts.

After more than a year of debate and wrangling, Gov. Phil Murphy and his fellow top Democrats remain a few votes short of the number they need to pass the measure — a cornerstone of Murphy’s agenda — in the state Legislature.

A big impediment to closing the gap is a provision that would clear the record of any resident who had been convicted of possessing between up to 5 pounds of weed.

Some lawmakers long considered possible supporters of the bill think that number is too high, four sources familiar with the situation told NJ Advance Media.

But if leaders change it, they risk losing the backing of other lawmakers who want the provision included, according to the sources.

It’s a conundrum that could stop the bill cold — at least until the end of the year. Murphy, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin are trying to come up with a solution, the sources said.

“How do you thread that needle?” one source asked.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

This comes less than a month after Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Coughlin, D-Middlesex, called off a planned vote in the Legislature when it became clear the bill wouldn’t have enough votes to pass. While Coughlin said he had enough votes in the Assembly, sources say leaders are anywhere from one to four votes short in the Senate.

Now, leaders are hoping to hold another vote by the end of May — if they can gather enough support.

If not, sources say, a vote may be moved to the end of the year, after November’s Assembly elections. That would be two years after Murphy was elected, partially on the promises to make New Jersey the latest state to legalize pot.

Murphy and other Democrats have said their main goal for legalizing weed is to improve the state’s social justice system — because black residents are three times more likely to face marijuana charges than white residents.

On top of the bill to legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 and older in New Jersey, sponsors have drafted two separate but related measures: one that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program and another that would expunge criminal records of those with certain pot convictions.

In order to secure more votes for legalization, they expanded the definition of who would be eligible to have their records expunged. They included people who have been convicted of third-degree marijuana distribution and possession charges.

Under existing law, a crime in the third-degree — which affects the level of fines and other penalties — ranges from one or more ounces to five pounds.

Sources say some lawmakers on the fence — especially Republicans but even some Democrats — believe the five-pound mark would cover hardened drug dealers.

The wide disparity of one ounce to five pounds has caused a degree of “sticker shock," said Amol Sinha, executive director for the ACLU-NJ, which has been at the table as the legislation has been written.

But, Sinha added, there is “a misunderstanding out there about what a third-degree crime is.” He said this would not include “a big-time drug dealer dealing with other drugs and threatening public safety.”

“Frankly, these are people who have already served their sentences,” Sinha said. "This is an opportunity to start their lives and become productive members of society.”

He also said it would be “hypocritical” for the state to welcome the cannabis industry’s money while continue to punish people arrested and convicted before legalization who still cannot find a decent job, rent an apartment or obtain a loan.

While Sinha said he’s aware the expungement language has divided some legislators, he draws attention to those who support it: Murphy, Sweeney, Coughlin, the ACLU, NAACP, the Latino Action Network and “a lot of the faith community.”

“The bill as a whole is seen as a really good step forward for New Jersey and is already highlighted as a national model,” Sinha said. "People are keeping an eye on what New Jersey does.”

This comes as legislative leaders are already concerned about Murphy’s vow to use his powers to expand the state’s medical marijuana program if a May vote doesn’t happen. Though Murphy says the program is in dire need of growth, sources say top lawmakers are worried legislators on the fence will have a reason to avoid voting for legalization because the governor would medical expand either way.

Coughlin, the Assembly speaker, said on his monthly call-in radio show Friday morning the hope is still to have the Legislature vote toward the end of May. But, he said, “there’s not a real time clock on this."

“Most importantly, we want to get the bill right,” Coughlin said on WCTC 1450-AM. “We’re gonna look at ways to see if we can improve it and bring some other members along.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
N.J. medical marijuana patients win huge protections from being fired for flunking a drug test

New Jersey workers can’t be fired if they flunk a drug test because they are medical marijuana patients, a state appeals court has ruled.

The case is likely to reverberate in workplaces for years to come because a state appeals court says medical marijuana patients — as long as they are not under the influence at work — are protected by the state Law Against Discrimination.

There are about 45,000 registered patients in the program with about 2,000 joining every month, according to the state Department of Health.

“The sweeping effect is you can no longer say, ‘You (tested) positive — you are outta here,’ ” said Maxine “Mickey” Neuhauser, an employment expert with the Newark office of the Epstein Becker and Green national law firm.

“There had been a general belief that since marijuana is illegal under federal law, employers would not have to accommodate its use by employees, even if they had a prescription for it and using it legally under state law,” Neuhauser said. “This appellate case very strongly came down in the opposite direction following the lead of other states confronted with the same issue.”

The March 27 state Appellate decision is based on a discrimination lawsuit filed by Justin Wild, 41, a man diagnosed with cancer who was fired from his director’s job at the Feeney Funeral Home in Ridgewood in 2016.

Wild did not tell his employer he was enrolled in the medicinal marijuana program until after he was injured in a car accident and was taken to a hospital, according to the court decision.

The accident was not deemed to be Wild’s fault and he claimed he was not high at the time. Because Wild acknowledged he was a registered patient, the emergency room physician did not administer a drug test because “of course it will be in his system,” according to a summary of the case in the court decision.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
"Individuals would be permitted to lawfully possess up to one ounce of marijuana."

Yeah, right....like people are going to honor this ridiculous restriction. Meanwhile, I can go to our county run liquor stores and buy a dozen 1.75L bottles of whiskey....but one ounce? Yeah...haha

"As a practical matter, this will likely result in a requirement to exclusively hire union employees."

Uh...which union would that be....the International Brotherhood of Cannabis Growers and Stoners (IBCGS). I can see it now! haha



What’s inside New Jersey’s proposed cannabis legalization Bill?


Over a year after reform advocates first began predicting swift legislative victory, the recreational use of cannabis remains illegal in New Jersey. When Governor Murphy and Senate President Sweeney agreed on a $42 per ounce flat tax in February, legalization supporters once again hoped for quick adoption of New Jersey Assembly Bill 4497 (“A4497”). Once again, the much-publicized March 25th vote was called off due to lack of support. Now legislators have a limited window to act before the state budget deadline on July 1st.

Hopes for reform have ebbed and flowed since Governor Murphy was elected on a platform including legalization within his first 100 days. Despite his party controlling both the Senate and Assembly, the Governor has only been able to expand the medical program since taking office. That executive action doubled medical marijuana enrollment in just six months.

While the media has spilled considerable ink analyzing the political drama, actual details of the bill itself have received considerably less attention. A4497 attempts to incorporate lessons learned from other legalization regimes in Colorado, Washington, and California. Some critics argue certain provisions in the bill are too ambitious. Others wish the bill would go even farther. These disputes will need to be resolved before the ongoing 18-month saga finally comes to a vote in Trenton.

What’s in the Bill?
A4497 generally employs a vice-regulation model common to most legalization regimes. Individuals would be permitted to lawfully possess up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill would establish a Cannabis Regulatory Commission. This powerful, five-person regulatory body would have overall authority to regulate and control the cannabis industry. Three members would be appointed by the Governor, one by the Senate President, and one by the Assembly Speaker. The commission would make bi-annual reports to the Governor and legislature.

One of the controversial elements of the bill are the much-debated expungement provisions. As currently written, nearly all cannabis-related offenses would be expunged. The only offenses not subject to expungement would involve possession of over five pounds or within close proximity to a school. Disorderly persons convictions may also be expunged. Drafters considered this provision significant because many cannabis offenses are pled down to this lesser offense. The bill would also prohibit law enforcement from using the smell of cannabis as probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a crime.


The language of the plan would allow for an “expedited” but not an automatic expungement system. A robust expungement program would be an immense logistical process and opponents suggest the legislation lacks adequate planning for its implementation. Other critics worry expungements could potentially extend to more serious offenses including weapons.

The bill proposes a Cannabis Control Commission to issue four tiers of licenses. Of no small controversy is the promotion of participation by disabled veterans, women, and minority licensees. Some supporters are insisting on stronger “social justice” provisions to require numerical set-asides for these groups. As written, the bill seems to consider participation by these groups as a non-binding goal. 15% of licenses would go to minorities, 15% to disabled-veterans, and 25% to “micro-businesses.” The bill does not include a cap on the total number of available licenses. “Impact Zones” are defined based on crime, poverty, and cannabis arrests and receive preferential access to licenses.

Four tiers of licenses cover every step of cannabis production including growers, processors, wholesalers, and retail establishments. Licensees will be required to pass a mandatory background check and obtain a Labor Peace Agreement from the union in order to operate. As a practical matter, this will likely result in a requirement to exclusively hire union employees.

Over 60 New Jersey municipalities have already passed ordinances prohibiting cannabis sales within their city limits. These municipalities would need to take further action within 180 days of legalization. Beyond this 180-day window local governments cannot prohibit retail establishments within a five year opt-out period.

Also noteworthy in the bill is the proposal of Cannabis Consumption Areas. These may be authorized by local governments and would attach only to Class 4 licenses (retail establishments). Cannabis Consumption Areas could be indoor or outdoor, but the consumed cannabis must be purchased on the premises. Beyond these areas public use would be prohibited, although delivery would be allowed. The bill is silent on dram shop liability.

The bill attempts to limit most employment discrimination based on cannabis use, including hiring and firing. In particular, employers would not be allowed to consider previous cannabis arrests. However, the bill would still allow employers to consider cannabis use if deemed reasonably related to the requirements of the job. Nothing in the bill would require an employer to amend their drug free workplace programs. The bill would also prohibit discrimination in the issuance or denial of mortgages arising from cannabis use. Cannabis-use could not be the sole basis for child custody decisions, although it could still be considered among other relevant factors.

The bill includes provisions regarding labeling, packaging, and advertising. Labels would need to include warnings, as well as information about THC levels, weight, serving size, growth method including pesticide information, and strain.

Finally, A4497 contains a safe harbor provision designed to comply with federal laws and the Supremacy Clause. The bill explicitly states it does not compel violation of any federal laws.

Where does the Bill go from Here?
“Marijuana prohibition has failed,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari, one of the chief architects of the bill. “It is time to end the detrimental effect these archaic drug laws are having on our residents and make adult use marijuana legal.”

There is no proposed date for a vote, but supporters are hoping to bring it to the floor before the end of May. New Jersey currently spends about $127 million a year enforcing marijuana possession. Reform advocates often point to an ACLU study which indicates minorities are roughly three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses in New Jersey.

Legal cannabis is expected to become a billion-dollar industry in the Garden State.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

With Legalization Stalled, Can New Jersey Salvage MMJ Reforms?


New Jersey has a well-earned reputation as a difficult medical marijuana state. For years, patients suffered extremely limited access to products and dispensaries as Gov. Chris Christie purposely stalled the state’s MMJ program.


Gov. Phil Murphy wants to expand NJ's medical cannabis program, but he deferred to the Legislature. Will lawmakers come through?
Christie’s successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, signaled his intention to expand the state’s program earlier this year. In March, however, Murphy pumped the brakes. Legislative leaders indicated that they wanted to fix the system with a comprehensive bill that included adult-use legalization.

Murphy went along with the request.

But now, with the adult-use bill faltering in Trenton, medical marijuana patient advocates are wondering if they have time to move a standalone MMJ reform bill through the Legislature.


RELATED STORY
Cannabis Collapse: New Jersey Lawmakers Call Off Legalization Vote

These Limits Are Ridiculous
Among the glaring items that need fixing: An onerous recertification process that requires some patients to get a doctor’s note every 30, 60, or 90 days. In New Jersey, a Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) card is valid for two years. However, the law requires a patient with a card to return to the doctor at least every 90 days for recertification.

In practice, this means a patient with a chronic condition can be forced to take the work time and expense to revisit a doctor every 30 to 90 days to get re-certified for a condition that is not expected to heal within a month—or even years.

No Initiative Process Available
New Jersey does not have a statewide initiative process, so any statewide vote on the issue would only result in a non-binding advisory. The Legislature would still have to act on that vote and pass a legalization bill, and that process can be appallingly slow. For instance, the state’s compassionate use medical marijuana act (CUMA) was introduced in 2005 and did not pass until 2010.

It took five years to pass medical legalization. Patients don't want to wait another five for reform.
Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, senate president, has not given up hope. Behind-the-scenes negotiations are taking place at the statehouse. Friction between Sen. Sweeney and Gov. Murphy are causing divisions within the Democratic party, while all Republican lawmakers—with the exception of one—are on the record opposing S2703, the current legalization bill.

“You are not going to undo decades of the war on marijuana in a single piece of legislation,” says Ken Wolski, executive director of New Jersey’s Coalition for Medical Marijuana. Some legalization supporters, for instance, are actually opposed to S2703 because it doesn’t include a measure allowing state residents to grow cannabis at home.

The New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus (NJLBC) may be the bill’s strongest opponent. Sen. Ronald R. Rice, a Vietnam veteran, former police officer and the leader of the NJLBC, was an outspoken opponent of medical marijuana during the five years it crawled through the Legislature. He views cannabis use as the issue, rather than the laws surrounding it. Rice says he wants it decriminalized rather than legalized, in order to decrease racial disparities in marijuana arrests.

Proposed MMJ Changes
What would an MMJ-only reform bill include? The current non-adult-use measure, still alive in the Legislature, is known as Substitute Nos. 10 and 2426. It would:

  • Update the list of qualifying conditions, and allow medical marijuana to be used as a treatment of first resort for any condition included in the list
  • Allow patients to obtain authorization for up to a one-year supply in a single health care professional visit
  • Establish the position of “institutional caregiver,” which is an employee of a health care facility who is authorized to obtain and administer medical marijuana to qualifying patients at the health care facility
  • Allow patients to have up to two designated caregivers, or more with Health Dept. approval
  • Expand the list of professionals who can authorize the medical use of cannabis to include physician assistants and advanced practice nurses
  • Eliminate the requirement that a minor must see a psychiatrist before qualifying for medical cannabis
  • Recognize out-of-state medical cannabis ID cards
  • Gradually increase the maximum amount of medical cannabis that may be dispensed to a patient for a period of 30 days
  • Provide that hospice care or terminally ill patients may have 30-day quantities that meet the patient’s treatment needs over and above the standard limit
  • Remove a provision that limited distribution of edible forms of medical marijuana to qualifying patients who are minors
  • Provide that qualifying patients and designated caregivers may not be discriminated against when enrolling in schools and institutions of higher education, or when renting or leasing real property
  • Provide that medical marijuana is treated as the same as any other medication for furnishing medical care, including determining the individual’s eligibility for an organ transplant
  • Establish protections from adverse employment actions for qualifying patients as well as protections in child custody cases
  • Gradually eliminate the sales tax on medical marijuana

Change the NJ Dispensary Model
Wolski believes one of the main impetus’ of Substitute Nos.10 and 2426 is to change the nature of future Alternative Treatment Centers (which is what dispensaries are called in New Jersey).

“Patients in New Jersey pay some of the highest prices in the nation for their medicinal marijuana,” Wolski told Leafly. “Merely expanding the outlets where they can pay these prices is not doing a service to the patients. The vigorous competition that allows for market forces to influence pricing should bring the out-of-pocket expenses of the patients down to more reasonable levels.”

A home cultivation provision for patients might be a solution to both the availability and affordability issues, there’s no homegrow provision in the current MMJ reform measure.

While the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey would like to see severa
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

N.J.’s marijuana bill nearly ‘dead.’ That means you may get to vote on making weed legal.


It’s now all but certain that New Jersey voters, and not lawmakers, will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, three legislative sources confirmed to NJ Advance Media late Thursday.

A plan for the state Legislature to pass bill that would make recreational pot legal for those 21 and older in the Garden State is likely “dead,” said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.

Although Gov. Phil Murphy and his fellow Democrats who lead the Legislature were gunning for a vote this month, one source said there’s “no hope” for that now because they still have not secured enough votes for the measure to pass and are unlikely to.

A second source said “someone needs to call the damn thing.” And a third source said voters will “definitely” be the ones to decide the issue at the ballot box.

Now lawmakers are simply waiting for state Senate President Stephen Sweeney to make it official that legislators will not get a chance to vote on the bill, the sources said. That could happen within days.

No decision has been made about when a referendum would go on the ballot. It could be this November or next, but 2020 is much more probable, the sources said. If it’s the latter, that means you might not get to light up legally until 2021.

Still, two officials in Murphy’s administration disputed the notion there is no hope the Legislature will pass the bill.

“There’s still hope,” one of them said, saying it’s up to Sweeney to produce the 21 votes needed for the measure to pass the state Senate.

One legislative source said even if the recreational bill dies, it’s possible the Legislature could vote on a pair of related measures in the coming months — one to expand the state’s medical marijuana program and another to expunge the records of residents with pot convictions of up to 5 pounds.

Murphy had already been planning to expand medical weed on his own if a vote on the recreational bill didn’t materialize by the end of this month.

The dimming hopes for the marijuana bill come as controversy over tax breaks has consumed Trenton in recent weeks. A task force convened by Murphy is examining whether companies abused tax breaks doled out by the state — including those with ties to South Jersey power broker George Norcross III, a close ally of Sweeney.

That has caused bad blood between Murphy and Sweeney to boil even more and cast a shadow over the push for pot as well as state budget negotiations.

Of the 10 states to legalize marijuana, only Vermont has done so legislatively. All others have had voters decide.

On Thursday morning, Murphy said at an unrelated news conference in Trenton that a voter referendum has always been possible in New Jersey. But the governor said he still preferred to legalize pot in the Legislature, giving them more flexibility to set up the program and make changes in the future.

“I want to exhaust that with legislative leadership before we talk about a plan B,” Murphy said.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, agreed.

“We have work to do," Coughlin said. "Whether in fact we get there or not remains to be seen. And if we don’t, then I think we need to continue to look for ways to do it.”

Murphy was then scheduled to meet with Coughlin and Sweeney later in the day to discuss the budget and how to tinker with the marijuana bill to win over more votes.

But Sweeney pulled out at the last minute, saying he had another meeting to attend.

Murphy campaigned for governor on making marijuana legal. And he, Sweeney, and Coughlin have worked together to try to whip votes.

Still, lawmakers from both major political parties have been opposed. A planned vote on the measure in March was canceled when it became clear the Senate didn’t have the votes.

Leaders have been considering changes to the legislation to make it more palatable to lawmakers on the fence. But three legislative sources say there hasn’t been much progress on obtaining more “yes” votes since then.

Thus, it’s likely leaders will put a question on the ballot asking voters to amend the state constitution to legalize weed. For that to happen for this November’s elections, the Legislature would have to approve the question by 90 days before Election Day. They’d also need two-thirds of the Legislature to agree.

One source said “this year is not off the table," but it’s more of a risk since state Assembly elections top the ticket and the turnout is expected to be light and voters older. Plus, if the question fails, lawmakers would have to wait three years to put it on the ballot again.

Thus, 2020 seems safer, considering there’s a presidential election that will likely draw a larger turnout, with a younger electorate.

Politico New Jersey was the first to report sources saying the bill is “dead."

Here’s what Murphy and another top Democrat just said about the chances of legalizing marijuana in N.J.
Talk has gotten increasingly louder in Trenton lately that New Jersey’s leaders are losing hope they’ll be able to secure enough votes in the state Legislature to legalize marijuana and may have the state’s voters decide at the ballot box instead.

But Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he hasn’t given up on passing the bill, even though he admitted a voter referendum is a possibility.

“We came very close to this not that long ago,” Murphy said during an unrelated news conference outside his office in Trenton. “It just didn’t get there.”

“The referendum has always been out there as an option,” the Democratic governor added. “Only one state has done this legislatively. That’s Vermont.”

“We have felt that this is a better way to go,” Murphy continued. “It takes more courage. It’s a tough vote for many. We understand that. That’s still, in my opinion, the preferred route. I want to exhaust that with legislative leadership before we talk about a plan B.”

Standing next to him, state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said a ballot question remains an option.

“We’re still not over the goal line,” Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said. “We have work to do. Whether in fact we get there or not remains to be seen. And if we don’t, then I think we need to continue to look for ways to do it.”

Murphy campaigned on legalizing marijuana, not just for the tax revenue but to improve social justice in the state. He routinely cites statistics that show people of color are three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than whites in New Jersey.

But even though his fellow Democrats control the Legislature, lawmakers from both major parties have been against the idea. In March, a planned vote in the state Legislature on the bill was canceled when it became clear there weren’t enough votes in the state Senate.

Leaders hoped to hold another vote in May. They say it’s better to do this legislatively rather than through a referendum because it gives them more flexibility to shape and fix the program, while leaving it to voters is less predictable.

But multiple sources have told NJ Advance Media a vote in the Legislature looks increasingly unlikely, and the chances are growing that voters will decide — whether it be this November or next.

One source said Thursday that it would “definitely” be next year, because voter turnout is expected to be larger, with a presidential race on the ticket.

Murphy, Coughlin, and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, were scheduled to meet about a number of issues, including pot.

But Sweeney skipped at the last minute.

“I had (another) meeting,” he told NJ Advance Media. “It was an important meeting. It was a good meeting.”

The move comes as tension continues to mount between Murphy and Sweeney over an investigation into the state’s tax break program. The panel is examining whether companies with ties to South Jersey power broker George Norcross III, a Sweeney ally, misused the incentives.

Norcross on Wednesday defended himself in an interview with NJ Advance Media, saying the breaks were used to help revive his hometown of Camden and calling Murphy a “liar.”

Murphy and Coughlin both stressed Thursday that the state needs to legalize weed to get away from “the status quo.”

“How could anyone be happy with the status quo?” Murphy asked. “Our kids are exposed, the bad guys run the business, none of the social injustices have been addressed.”

Sweeney backs out of marijuana-legalization meeting with Murphy, sources say
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, is skipping a meeting with Gov. Phil Murphy to legalize marijuana over his frustration with the governor’s intense scrutiny of a multi-billion dollar tax break program which Sweeney championed, according to several sources who requested anonymity.

Murphy and Sweeney were initially planning to meet at roughly noon on Thursday, along with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, on how to pass the marijuana-legalization bill by the end of May. A move that comes amidst mounting tensions between Sweeney and Murphy over rewriting the state’s tax incentives and approving Murphy’s proposed millionaire’s tax.

But Sweeney denied any kind of bad blood with the governor, especially given that Murphy has zeroed in on how the tax break program may have unethically benefited friends and family of his close ally: insurance executive and South Jersey power broker George Norcross.

“Yeah, whatever you want to say, whatever they want to say,” Sweeney told reporters in the statehouse.

Sweeney had been attending a “meeting with some people, that was very important and I couldn’t leave,” he told reporters.

The legalization bill had enough votes in the Assembly to pass the 41-vote threshold but was short of the 21 votes needed in the Senate.

If the vote does not pass out of the Legislature by the end of May, Sweeney said he would not likely post the bill for a vote until the lame duck session following Murphy’s midterm elections in November.

Even more, lawmakers and Murphy have been hoping to avoid putting the measure before voters in the form of a ballot question, arguing that any changes, corrections or improvements would need to also be done via ballot question rather than legislation.

Sweeney and Murphy have continually clashed over the Grow New Jersey tax breaks—Murphy wants to let Grow NJ expire when it lapses in July, and Sweeney wants to keep the program in place albeit tweaked.

A task force Murphy convened in January unearthed allegations last week that the Grow NJ incentives yielded enormous, unethical and potentially illegal benefits to insurance and South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, and his friends, family, allies and business partners.

Given the alliance between Norcross and Sweeney, the tax force incentive has been viewed by Trenton insiders as a proxy war between the Sweeney Norcross camp and the Murphy camp.

This has been denied by both Murphy and Sweeney.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
"Sen. Ronald Rice, a Democrat from Newark who chairs the state Legislative Black Caucus, opposes legalization and recently introduced a bill to hold a referendum. He says legalization hurts urban communities and predicts voters will defeat it."

I think Mr Rice will be wrong...but agree, put it to the voters. That is the opinion that counts.


To legalize recreational marijuana, New Jersey may have voters make the decision


It was a gaffe, but it was telling.

Hours after a well-orchestrated push to pass a legal-weed bill died in the Trenton statehouse, Gov. Phil Murphy announced to the clicking of cameras that a “postmortem” would be done.

The men standing next to him at the lectern — Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin — chuckled and quietly corrected him.

“Or post-op,” Murphy amended. In the coming days, he said, the three Democrats and their staff would surgically analyze why the legalization vote had to be abruptly canceled March 25 and they would swiftly get the bill back on the agenda.

But six weeks later, the governor’s reference to a “postmortem” seems like a prescient slip. There still are not enough votes in the Senate to support legalization.

Some lawmakers now want the Legislature to put the question of adult-use recreational marijuana on the ballot, possibly in a referendum during the 2020 presidential election when voter turnout will be high. Some say a constitutional amendment may be warranted.

Sen. Ronald Rice, a Democrat from Newark who chairs the state Legislative Black Caucus, opposes legalization and recently introduced a bill to hold a referendum. He says legalization hurts urban communities and predicts voters will defeat it.

Though a recent Monmouth University poll found 62 percent of New Jersey residents favor an end to marijuana prohibition, Rice said he doubted that conclusion. “When we talk to everyday people in neighborhoods and explain the difference between recreational and medical marijuana and that they will put marijuana bodegas next to liquor stores and bring in problems, people say, ‘No, no, no,' ” he said.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat from Union County who drafted the nearly 200-page legalization bill, said the Senate was only about two votes shy of winning approval. The bill's passage would bring quicker and better results than a referendum, he said.

“I continue to maintain a referendum would be the last resort, but it’s looking more and more possible. It would have to be a constitutional amendment to be binding and it better be perfect if we’re changing the constitution.” -New Jersey state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat.

But lawmakers have been saying the vote is close for six weeks — only two to five votes short.

“I continue to maintain a referendum would be the last resort, but it's looking more and more possible,” Scutari said in an interview Thursday. “It would have to be a constitutional amendment to be binding and it better be perfect if we're changing the constitution.”

Unlike several other states, New Jersey does not allow voters to initiate a ballot question. The Legislature would have to agree to hold a referendum, craft the question, and then act on it if it passes. It would take time.

Other lawmakers want to turn their attention to the more popular medical-marijuana expansion bill, which was strategically linked with legalization and a social-justice bill that calls for clearing the criminal records of those convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana, a crime for which minorities are arrested three times as often as whites.


New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
Asked whether the governor would support a referendum and uncoupling the medical-marijuana bill from the bill package, Murphy spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro said in an email that he “remains committed to working with the Legislature to both further reform our medical marijuana program and to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana, a critical step in eliminating disparities in our criminal justice system.”

The governor, she said, “believes that the opinions of the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans who support legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana should be heard.”

But faced with criticism that patients are suffering while waiting for the bill package to win approval, the governor recently set a deadline for the end of May and said he would administratively expand the program if the bill package is still not passed. Statewide, there are only six dispensaries and they struggle to serve 40,000 patients enrolled in the program and new applicants who are signing up at a rate of 100 a day.


N.J. Senate President Steve Sweeney
Sweeney, a longtime lawmaker from Gloucester County, declined comment for this article. But in recent weeks, he has said breaking apart the linked bills could jeopardize the passage of legalization and the social-justice bill. He also has said he favors the bill package over a referendum, but legalization will “get done one way or another.”

As the clock ticks, Sweeney, a cosponsor, said he will call for a vote only when he has the 21 votes he needs in the Senate for passage. The Assembly reportedly has the support it needs, but Coughlin has said he will wait until the Senate is ready.

Meanwhile, Rice and other lawmakers are calling for Sweeney to bring the medical-marijuana expansion bill to the floor for a vote. “There's no one against it and the leadership is holding people who are sick hostage to get the legalization bill passed. I think its wrong to tie them together,” he said, “and maybe we need new leadership.”

Scutari, who sponsored the state's medical-marijuana bill nearly a decade ago, said the program needs to be expanded and modified, but removing the expansion bill from the package would “pretty much doom legalization because people will use that as an excuse to not deal with the issue.”

The expansion bill is named after Jake Honig, a 7-year-old who died of brain cancer last year and became a medical-marijuana patient in his final days. His father, Mike Honig, of Howell, is urging Murphy and the legislative leaders to move on the bill without further delay.

“We are putting patients in New Jersey behind pleasure-seekers,” Honig said in a Facebook video that grabbed media attention. Soon after that, Murphy set the May deadline.

Honig said cannabis greatly alleviated Jake’s pain in his last two months, but he had to supplement it with oxycodone and morphine and other drugs when the boy’s monthly 2-ounce supply of cannabis ran out. State law restricted him to the 2 ounces and it didn’t last through the month. The stronger drugs took a toll on the child, Honig said, and “it was difficult to watch.”

The expansion bill would allow terminal patients to receive as much marijuana as they need, and also would permit the sale of marijuana oil. Many parents, including Honig, had to make their own oils from the cannabis buds sold at dispensaries because oils and edibles have not yet been approved.

But Honig’s position on separating the bills is softening. “If legalization is going to continue to block medical, patients shouldn’t have to wait anymore. They should uncouple the two bills,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m in favor of getting it medical passed as soon as possible . but if legalization gets medical passed quicker, that’s a good thing for everybody.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
New Jersey Senate Passes Medical Cannabis Expansion Bill
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign the legislation.
The New Jersey Senate voted 33-4 to considerably expand the state’s medical cannabis program on Thursday.

The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act would expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use, and increase the possession limit to three ounces per month in dried form. The bill transfers oversight of the medical cannabis program from the Department of Health to a yet-to-be established Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC).

“I’ve seen first-hand how much better certain individuals do on medical cannabis than they do on opioids and many times doctors prescribe opioids under our current law because it’s just so much easier,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a longtime cannabis supporter and major player in the state’s failed push to legalize cannabis for adult use. “This bill attempts to circumvent that, and make it much more streamlined, so it is treated more as a mainstream medication.”

The bill also allows medical cannabis dispensaries to have consumption areas on their premises, if the municipality in which they are located and the CRC both approve. This would provide patients living in public housing, federally-funded nursing homes, and on college campuses, or those who depend on federal housing subsidies, spaces where they could legally consume medical cannabis. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of how some federally subsidized tenants are forced to choose between their medicine and their home.)

However, there was criticism from some lawmakers, especially concerning the sales tax on medical cannabis.

“To add sales tax to medical marijuana is a crime,” said Sen. Robert Singer. “It is medical marijuana for a reason. It helps people. And we should not make a profit in helping people.”

But Scutari defended the decision to not remove the sales tax.

“The state of New Jersey incurs substantial costs with the administration of this program because, although its medicine, it’s not the same,” Scutari said. “It doesn’t fall into the same regulations of the FDA so the state has to take on a lot of the responsibilities the federal government normally would.”

Sen. Nia Gill took issue with a provision in the bill that allows an investor to bypass a background check if they hold an interest of five percent or less in a medical cannabis operation.

“So you can have one person having multiple interest of five or less in multiple companies at all levels and they don’t need a background check,” Gill said. “But, of course, some poor Joe who may have had an incident and has a record and has a background check could not even be employed in a dispensary.”

The Senate also added an amendment that allows employees in the medical cannabis industry to unionize. Hence, the bill will go back to the Assembly for a vote before heading to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk to be signed into a law.

The Senate was expected to also vote on a bill that includes an expedited expungement process for cannabis-related convictions. However, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said a drafting error required the bill to be rewritten. It will now go to vote on June 10.


NJ medical marijuana expansion moves forward, no expungement vote due to 'error'

TRENTON - After years of pushing from activists frustrated with New Jersey's limited medical marijuana program, lawmakers agreed Thursday to make it easier for patients to register and to purchase and consume cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which passed the Senate by a 33-4 vote, would raise the monthly limit to 3 ounces per patient and legalize the manufacture and purchase of edible forms of medical marijuana, including food and oils.

Buy Photo
Higher Grade dispensary offers fine cannabis for medicinal purposes. Denver, CO on Friday, April 13, 2018 (Photo: Doug Hood )

The Assembly passed the bill last week by a 65-5 vote but will have to vote again due to a last-minute amendment on the Senate floor that would require cannabis businesses to allow workers to unionize.

If the Assembly approves that amendment, it will head to Gov. Phil Murphy's desk. But he does not seem willing to wait around.

Murphy is planning to take executive action within days to “drastically” expand the medical program, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plans.

"There are things that I'd change about this bill, but this is a big breakthrough. We had to do these things legislatively. Increasing the amount of product people can get, increasing access points and the number of growers, will dramatically increase access for the very sick people who need it," bill sponsor Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said last week when the bill cleared the Senate health committee.

MORE: Everything you need to know about the big changes coming to NJ medical marijuana

The Honig Act also removes the requirement for doctors to maintain a "bona fide" relationship with their patients before referring them to the medical marijuana program, allowing them to recommend medical marijuana as they would any other treatment option.

Under current law, most doctors meet with patients multiple times — each appointment costing potentially hundreds of dollars and not covered by health insurance — before referring them.

The bill would also remove the state sales tax on medical marijuana purchases in 2025, though patients would still be subject to a 2 percent local "transfer tax" levied by municipalities that host dispensaries.

The medical marijuana legislation also includes numerous aspects of the ill-fated legal weed bill, including:

  • Home delivery to medical marijuana patients by a dispensary or third-party vendor
  • Cannabis consumption areas at dispensaries, with approval from local governments
  • Microbusiness permits, for cannabis businesses with fewer than 10 employees, and restrictions on size and operation
The Senate declined to vote on an expungement reform bill, which would make more crimes eligible for expungement, create an "e-filing" system for expungement petitions and a "clean slate" program to wipe away an offender's entire criminal record if the person goes 10 years without an offense.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said Thursday that the bill was held due to a "drafting error." It has yet to receive a vote in the full Assembly.

Until earlier this month, both bills had been linked to a proposal to legalize marijuana in New Jersey as a way to get on-the-fence legislators to vote in favor of legal weed.

But Sweeney announced this month that marijuana legalization would be pushed to the 2020 ballot, freeing up both accompanying bills to go up on their own.

Join "Let's Talk About Marijuana," our Facebook group dedicated to all things about marijuana legalization in New Jersey, including legal weed, medical cannabis and what it means for your community.

Since the medical marijuana bill was introduced, legislators have instituted a 23-permit cap on the number of cultivators licensed to grow the drug, which activists have said would prevent the program from flourishing.

O'Scanlon said the Cannabis Regulatory Commission — a new regulatory body that would oversee the medical marijuana program — could add new dispensaries if there is more need.

"Those growers and processors ought to be able to service more than one dispensary," he said. "I think we can get there under this legislation."

The most recent version of the bill keeps the sales tax in effect until 2025, instead of phasing it out over the next five years, as previous versions called for. But the addition of a transfer tax is new.

RELATED: This NJ family moved to Colorado for easier access to medical marijuana. And they're never coming back.

Instead of making medical marijuana completely tax-free, patients will keep paying the 2 percent tax. That tax could be levied by municipalities immediately after the bill becomes law.

“To add sales tax to medical marijuana is a crime," said Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean, who attempted to table the vote until the tax language could be removed. "How dare we use the term ‘medical’ and charge poor people and working people and families sales tax on something that helps them feel better. It is outrageous. It’s wrong."

Bill sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, defended the sales tax, arguing that the state would be taking on a lot of administrative costs that the federal government can’t touch, since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level.


N.J. still arrests more people for pot than almost any other state. A lot more.


As Phil Murphy swept the governor’s race in 2017 on a promise to legalize marijuana and clear pot convictions, New Jersey was arresting tens of thousands of people for marijuana offenses.

Police in the state arrested 34,501 people for marijuana possession and 3,122 people for pot sales in 2017, according to recently released FBI data. That’s 2,500 more arrests for weed than in 2016. Texas and New York were the only states who arrested more people for marijuana possession than New Jersey in 2017.

The arrest rate increased as well. About 38 in every 10,000 residents were arrested for pot possession in 2017, compared with 35 per 10,000 in 2016. That rate is more than double the national average, according to analysis done by NJ Advance Media. Only Wyoming and South Dakota had a higher marijuana arrest rate than New Jersey.

The arrest numbers were released at a time when New Jersey state lawmakers are having serious discussions about marijuana reform. Legislators, having dropped legalization for the time being, will soon vote to allow people to wipe away their old marijuana convictions. Two bills that would decriminalize marijuana possession are also floating around Trenton.

But even though it looks like lawmakers will allow people to clear their old marijuana convictions, there figure to be plenty of new pot convictions to replace them.

“We are living in a time when the frequency of marijuana arrests and the number of marijuana arrests are going up annually,” said Amol Sinha, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “It doesn’t seem feasible that we can expunge all the records we’re creating.”

There’s also still a big disparity in who police arrest for marijuana. Black residents comprised 13 percent of the New Jersey population but 39 percent of pot arrests in 2017. That discrepancy is nothing new.

The ACLU of New Jersey published a report in 2017 that found black New Jerseyans were more than three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people in the state, despite similar usage rates.

These were some of the biggest reasons that Murphy, the state’s Democratic governor, cited for his interest in legalizing marijuana.

“Gov. Murphy has repeatedly said that he believes legalization of adult-use marijuana is critical to eliminating disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Alyana Alfaro, Murphy’s press secretary. “Each week that marijuana remains illegal, approximately 600 people in New Jersey will be arrested for low-level drug crimes, with the majority of those being people of color.”

But with legalization no longer being considered in the Legislature, it remains unclear how the state can reduce these low-level marijuana arrests.

Both Murphy and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, have said they don’t favor decriminalization, which would stop police from arresting people who have small amounts of marijuana. There are decriminalization bills in both the Assembly and the Senate, but neither bill has gained much momentum.

State Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, is the main sponsor of the decriminalization bill in his chamber, and he has said multiple times that the unwillingness of the governor and the Senate president to consider his bill shows him that they care more about making money off marijuana than keeping people from getting arrested.

For their part, both Murphy and Sweeney have said they don’t favor decriminalization because they feel it legitimizes the illegal market.

“The attorney general has already issued guidance directing prosecutors to use discretion in these cases," said Alfaro, Murphy’s spokeswoman. "While this is an important step, Gov. Murphy believes that legalization must be the ultimate end goal in order to prevent continued injustices. Up to and until legalization, this business will remain in the shadows without the regulation needed to ensure public safety.”

But, as it stands now, marijuana arrests continue in the state unabated, even as lawmakers are set to vote on a plan that would let people clear their marijuana convictions.

The Legislature is set to take up a bill on expungements in June.

That plan would allow people with marijuana convictions to immediately apply to have those records cleared, among other broader changes to the state’s problematic expungement system. But the state is arresting more than 30,000 people each year for marijuana possession and it only clears about 10,000 convictions every year.

That math troubles Sinha, the ACLU of NJ director.

“We’re in a situation where it feels like one step forward and two steps back,” he said. “We’re agreeing that expungements are necessary, but we’re still arresting people” for marijuana crimes.

“It’s a vicious cycle.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
New Jersey announces expansion of medical marijuana program

The New Jersey Department of Health announced a plan on Monday to issue up to 108 more licenses for growers, manufacturers and retailers to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Due to the growing patient population served by the Medicinal Marijuana Program over the course of 2018 and 2019, and the projected future expansion outlined in the Department’s Biennial Report, the Department has determined that additional ATCs (Alternative Treatment Centers) are necessary to meet the needs of the population of qualified patients,” reads the announcement.

The Health Department also plans to issue 38 more licenses for cannabis Alternative Treatment Centers in the northern and central regions of the state and up to 32 for the southern region.

There are currently so many people in New Jersey that have been given permission to use medical cannabis that the state is consistently seeing product shortages which have resulted in high prices and long waiting times at retail locations.

“We are at a point where patients just cannot wait any longer for easily accessible, affordable therapy. This request for applications allows for specialization of businesses to increase medical product in our state,” said Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal.

New Jersey only has six cannabis ATCs with six more having been selected last year but that have yet to be licensed. These are all currently vertically integrated companies that both produce and dispense their products. This will be the first time that separate licenses will be given to cultivators, manufacturers and retailers.

The plan is to issue 30 licenses for cannabis manufacturers, up to 54 retail licenses, and 24 cultivation licenses that will be divided between three size-based classes of operators.

“By allowing for three sizes of cultivation endorsements (5,000 square feet, 20,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet), we are increasing opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to participate in the program,” said Elnahal.

Applications will be available beginning July 1 and must be returned by August 15.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Sigh....these days, its really hard for me to find any politician that I don't hold in contempt. Like Sweeney and Murphy...someone should crack their heads together like coconuts and tell them that this AIN'T about their political squabbles and maneuvers but it about patients who want their med MJ.

Here’s why N.J.’s top lawmaker is so angry about the expansion of medical marijuana

EDITOR’S NOTE: The billion-dollar medical marijuana, hemp and legal weed industries offer an economic opportunity unrivaled in modern N.J. history. NJ Cannabis Insider features exclusive, premium content for those interested in getting in on the ground floor or expanding their operation. View a sample issue.

Hours after the state Department of Health unveiled a plan to grow New Jersey’s strained medical marijuana program, the state Senate president bashed the move, furthering a feud that’s seeping into everything in Trenton.

Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey’s most powerful state lawmaker said Gov. Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, is undermining efforts to expand the medical marijuana program through the state Legislature.

A bill to do that is just a vote in the state Assembly away from landing on the governor’s desk for a signature, but Murphy has not said he’d endorse the plan.

“Once again, the governor is ignoring the hard work of the Legislature and the agreement between the Senate, the Assembly and the administration on this issue," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said in a statement. “The legislation that is in the process of being approved by both houses is a direct reflection of that agreement — and now the governor wants to preempt what is a thoughtful plan to expand medical marijuana in an effective and responsible way.”

On Monday, the Department of Health announced that it would soon be accepting applications for up to 108 new medical marijuana businesses, adding to the 12 providers that have already been approved by the state. Only six of those providers are currently open.

While the bill before the Legislature also would add many new medical marijuana businesses, it would do so in a different way. The Legislature’s plan calls for a Cannabis Regulatory Commission to oversee the industry and make rules about how many businesses would be allowed. The commission has long been a point of contention between the governor and the Senate president.

But any businesses added in the expansion announced Monday by the Health Department would be under control of that agency until a new law is passed, which irked Sweeney.

“This immediate and uncontrolled expansion could be destructive to what is a newly expanding marketplace,” the Senate president said. “The legislation calls for the oversight board to use its expertise in deciding how to increase the number of facilities to best serve consumers and their medical needs."

Meanwhile, New Jersey’s second-most-powerful lawmaker, state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin,, also said Monday he’s “disappointed” by Murphy’s move.

“For over a year, the Legislature has worked tirelessly with this administration in an effort to create a responsible and accessible medicinal cannabis market,” Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said in a statement.

“The Legislature understands the obstacles many suffering from critical and chronic illnesses are facing and will undoubtedly remain committed to move forward with legislation that will expand access to medical cannabis in a safe, accessible, and regulated market,” the speaker added.

Murphy has shown some patience in his push for a more robust medical marijuana market. He stalled on expanding the program while the Legislature debated a trio of marijuana reform bills. Those bills would have legalized marijuana, along with growing the medical program and making it easier for people to clear marijuana convictions from their records.

The Legislature was set to vote on those bills on March 25, before Sweeney pulled the plug the day of the vote, once it became clear the Senate did not have enough support to pass the legalization bill. Later the same day, Murphy said he would expand the medical marijuana program himself.

“We have put off (responding) to the enormous demand for medical marijuana. We have resisted granting more licenses,” the governor said in March.

But Sweeney and other top lawmakers were able to convince the governor to wait, as they tried to reach a consensus on legalization.

So Murphy did. But his patience wasn’t without limit, and after Sweeney announced last month that the effort to legalize marijuana in the state was dead, the Murphy administration began readying the expansion plan that was released on Monday.

The administration said Monday that there was no need to continue delaying medical expansion.

“Patients cannot continue to wait for access to life-changing medical treatment, and today’s announcement is an important step toward ensuring sustainable and affordable access," said Alyana Alfaro, the governor’s press secretary. “The Department of Health is overseeing the expansion of the Medicinal Marijuana Program to ensure that it is done responsibly and in a way that puts the needs of patients first.”

Alfaro added that, despite what Sweeney said, there was no agreement with the governor as the bill was written.

So this appears to be another chapter in what has become a long feud between Murphy and Sweeney, one that has permeated everything from taxes to economic incentives and one that seems to be turning rather nasty.

“The governor shouldn’t be ignoring what is a good plan and he shouldn’t be ignoring the agreement he has with the Legislature,” Sweeney said Monday. "That’s a bad practice and is becoming a bad habit of his.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
New Jersey governor wants several changes in medical cannabis bill


New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy outlined at least five changes he’d like to see in a medical marijuana expansion bill currently under consideration by state lawmakers, including the elimination of a 6.625% sales tax within three years.

The changes, according to NJ Advance Media, provide more specifics than previously reported.

In addition to eliminating the sales tax, suggested changes include:

  • Increasing the number of cultivators from 23 in the current bill to 36.
  • Scratching the provision that would have allowed cannabis consumption lounges.
  • Allowing only dispensaries to offer home delivery.
  • Keeping program oversight with the state health department until 2021, then transitioning to a Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Lawmakers are trying to hash out an agreement with the governor to avoid a potential veto of the bill.

In the meantime, Murphy’s administration has issued its own plan to expand New Jersey’s MMJ program.

For more details on how Murphy’s proposed changes compare to the current version of the bill, click here.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

NJ medical marijuana bill helps patients from other states. But there's one big problem.


Just as thousands of tourists flock to the Jersey Shore for the Fourth of July, the New Jersey medical marijuana program is on the verge of opening its doors to out-of-state patients for the first time.

Under the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, visitors with medical marijuana cards from their home states would be able to carry and use medical marijuana here, up to the proposed 3-ounce legal limit.

But there's one big problem: They wouldn't be allowed to buy medical marijuana here unless they have approval from a New Jersey doctor.

The only other options are to break the law — either purchasing weed on the black market or bringing it from home. Only patients registered in the New Jersey medical marijuana program can buy the drug at a New Jersey dispensary.

Transporting illegal drugs, including medical marijuana purchased legally in another state, across state lines — even between two states with legal weed — could constitute drug trafficking, with a potential five-year prison sentence, under federal law.

"It would be kind of a catch-22 for patients,” said Carly Wolf, a state policies coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “We have a lot of people coming to the state who are stranded, forced to choose between breaking the law or their own health and well-being."

Any move to protect out-of-state patients would place New Jersey in rare company. It would be just the eighth state, including Washington, D.C., to specifically address medical marijuana-using visitors from other jurisdictions.

Currently, the New Jersey medical marijuana law — and its protections — applies only to residents of the state, similar to neighboring New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Watch the videos at the top of the page for a look at how medical marijuana has played out in the Garden State.

The medical marijuana laws vary in those other states:

  • Arizona: Visiting medical marijuana patients can possess and use medical marijuana, but can't purchase it from a state dispensary.
  • Arkansas: Out-of-state patients can use, possess and purchase medical marijuana from a state dispensary (2.5 ounces every 14 days) if they have a medical marijuana card from their home state.
  • New Hampshire: Visiting qualifying patients can possess and use medical marijuana, but can't purchase it from a state dispensary.
  • Oklahoma: Visiting medical marijuana patients can apply for a 30-day temporary medical marijuana license, allowing them to use, possess and purchase cannabis from state dispensaries.
  • Pennsylvania: Only caregivers for children registered with their home states' medical marijuana programs can purchase cannabis at a state dispensary.
  • Rhode Island: Only out-of-state medical marijuana patients from states that track cannabis sales can purchase medical marijuana with two forms of identification. New Jersey isn't included.
  • Washington, D.C.: Patients from 16 states with "functionally-equivalent medical marijuana programs" — including New Jersey — are allowed to purchase medicinal cannabis at dispensaries.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Oh, still my beating heart.....sigh. Ok, another incremental improvement, like Virginia, but which still falls very short of the mark.

Couple this with the fact that full rec legalization died ONLY because of political squabble between....that's right, you guessed it.....politicians. Now why can't the Snail Darter be thriving and politicians be the endangered species. The world would applaud if it were so.


Medical marijuana may be more accessible in New Jersey



FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey expanded its medical marijuana program, including increasing the number of illnesses eligible for cannabis use, boosting the amount that can be dispensed and raising the number of cultivator permits, under a broad new law.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act on Tuesday at a tavern in Freehold known for holding charitable fundraisers.

“Today’s legislation creates a medical marijuana program that is modernized, compassionate, progressive, and meets the needs of patients,” Murphy said.

He was with the parents and sister of the bill’s namesake.

The law is named after a 7-year-old who died early last year after battling brain cancer. His parents, Mike and Janet Honig, have fought for easier access to cannabis to ease pain during illnesses.

The measure makes a number of changes. It increases the limit that can be dispensed from 2 ounces to 3 ounces for 18 months after the law goes into effect, with a commission the measure establishes setting the limit afterward.

It boosts a patient’s supply from 90 days to one year and allows for home delivery to patients.

The law lowers the threshold from debilitating illnesses to “qualifying” illnesses to make it easier for health care officials to prescribe the drug. The illnesses include seizure disorder, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, cancer, as well as chronic pain and opioid-use disorder. Other illnesses could be added as well.

It permits physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize medical cannabis. Previously, only doctors could prescribe it.

The law also sets up three new categories of licenses, including cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries. Currently there is only a single of permit allowing so-called alternative treatment centers that cover all three categories.

The law calls for expanding the number of cultivators to 28. In Murphy’s first year as governor, the state said it would double alternative treatment centers from six to 12.

The measure also sets up a five-member commission to regulate the drug, taking oversight of the program from the Health Department, and phases out the 6.625 percent sales tax over three years.

Before Murphy signed the legislation, Mike Honig told an emotional story about Jake enjoying waffle fries and a milkshake while on medical cannabis. Mike Honig said the morphine and opioids doctors had prescribed had terrible side effects for Jake, including taking away his appetite and making him high. Medical cannabis, instead, helped his son feel like himself, he said.

It “allowed Jake’s personality to shine through cancer,” Mike Honig said.

Murphy and the Democrat-led Legislature expanded medical marijuana after lawmakers failed in March to pass legalized recreational cannabis.

New Jersey’s program began in 2010, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie, an ardent marijuana critic, implemented the program slowly over his two terms.

The program has over 49,000 patients, up from about 15,000 when Christie left office in 2018.

Thirty-four states have medical marijuana programs, along with the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
"Passing pot through legislation, rather than through a voter referendum, has always been the preferred route for Gov. Phil Murphy and his fellow Democrats who lead the Legislature."

Yeah, well it was Murphy's and Sweeney's job to "whip" their caucus and get this done. They FAILED.

Legal weed bill for N.J. may be revived later this year. ‘We’ll make one more run at it.’

A bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey may not be dead after all, NJ Advance Media has learned.

Just three months ago, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney — New Jersey’s highest-ranking lawmaker — announced he was ending the roller-coaster efforts to pass the bill in the state Legislature because leaders couldn’t muster enough votes. Instead, Sweeney said, it would likely be up to the state’s voters to decide whether to make pot legal here, at the November 2020 ballot box.

But Garden State leaders privately believe there’s still hope, however slim, of convincing enough lawmakers to vote for the bill either during the “lame duck” session at the end of this year or in the first half of next year.

Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday: “I’m not going to give up trying."

“I would love to do it,” Sweeney said. "We’ll make one more run at it.”


false

Murphy won’t rule out decriminalizing marijuana in N.J. as legalization not happening any time soon

Gov. Phil Murphy and other New Jersey leaders have seemed more open lately to the idea of treating marijuana like a traffic ticket.


Passing pot through legislation, rather than through a voter referendum, has always been the preferred route for Gov. Phil Murphy and his fellow Democrats who lead the Legislature.


Such a move would allow leaders to more easily mold and regulate the new marijuana industry. And waiting until next year’s elections means you likely won’t be able to consume weed legally in New Jersey until early 2021, at the earliest.

In addition, thousands of people will continue to be arrested for pot offenses in the meantime. New Jersey arrested 34,500 people on marijuana offenses in 2017, more than any other state in the nation.

All of that would be a bitter pill for Murphy, who campaigned on legalizing pot, and Democratic lawmakers.

There is also fear that neighboring states like New York or Pennsylvania could get a jump on New Jersey and legalize marijuana before Garden State voters ever get to the polls.

Murphy and top lawmakers fell just a few votes short of passing the New Jersey bill in March. Sources said there were enough votes in the state Assembly but not enough in the state Senate, thanks to fierce opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.


There were hopes of reviving the vote in May, but Sweeney announced he was pulling the plug. That seemed definitive, especially because Sweeney and Murphy have been locked in a bitter civil war over tax incentives in the state.

But Sweeney said Wednesday that hope remains because he, Murphy, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, all support legal weed and have agreed on the final language in the bill.

Bill Caruso, a cannabis industry attorney and founding member of the social justice group New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, agreed there is still hope lawmakers will find the votes by the end of the year.

“The front office remains committed to getting it done,” Caruso, who regularly takes part in these discussions, told NJ Advance Media, referencing Murphy’s administration.

A Murphy administration source said the governor’s office continues to have productive conversations with legislators and advocates.


“It’s too important to let die,” said the source, who is not authorized to publicly speak about the issue and requested anonymity.

A spokesman for Murphy declined to comment.

Caruso said there was a “pause” in the discussions after Sweeney announced the ballot question in May. Then, in July, Murphy signed a long-awaited expansion of medicinal marijuana in New Jersey. And leaders began discussing possibly decriminalizing marijuana — in which violators would face a fine instead of jail time.

But the takeaway was that neither a more robust medical marijuana program nor decriminalizing weed changes the largest problems that trouble so many, Caruso said. Patients will still have a problem obtaining cannabis easily for at least the rest of the year, and minorities will continue to be disproportionately targeted for arrests and convictions.

“People realize that even with getting medical (marijuana) done — and that was a decade overdue — there are still so many problem related to the criminality, and the availability” of cannabis for patients, Caruso said.


“If one of your concerns as a legislator was open-air marijuana markets, decriminalization doesn’t do anything about talking it away from teens,” he added.

Leaders are unlikely to take action on a legalization bill until after November’s Assembly elections, in an effort to avoid a controversial vote.

But Caruso said “lame duck” — the period after the November elections and before the new two-year legislative session begins in January — is a “natural time to get stuff done."

The challenge for leaders will be the same as it was in the spring. To pass the bill, they need 21 votes in the Senate. Sources say they got as close as 18 or 19 in March.

Closing that gap means changing the minds of Democrats who have been considered “hard no” votes, getting Republicans to vote for the bill, or a combination of both.

Sweeney said the next step is to talk to opposed lawmakers and “see if anything has changed."

Time could also be an issue. To get a voter referendum on the 2020 ballot — when turnout will be higher because of the presidential race — the Legislature either has to approve the question by a three-fifths majority or by simple majorities in back to back years. They have until August 2020 to do that.


Two sources told NJ Advance Media that means if they can’t get the legalization bill passed by the end of the year, they may not try again in early 2020 and will instead go with the referendum.

Even with renewed hope, sources say a referendum remains the more likely scenario.

Sweeney said he’s confident voters will pass the ballot question. Polls show a majority of New Jerseyans support legal pot.





 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Murphy's party has both houses of the legislature and of course the Governor's mansion. Its his fucking job to get his party to support the platform on which they all ran, right? Get it done, Murphy....just do it.

NJ marijuana legalization: Phil Murphy wants 'one more shot' at legal weed in 2019

Rumors of the demise of New Jersey marijuana legalization may have been greatly exaggerated.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Stephen Sweeney in recent days have said they'd be open to trying to pass a law to legalize weed in the Garden State later this year, during the "lame duck" legislative session after Election Day.

"I think I've been consistent that I hoped we could have one more shot at this," Murphy told reporters on Thursday. "Getting something to happen sooner, if we have a real shot at that, I'd be all in. … Count me all in to try and work toward that."

Last week, Sweeney told NJ Advance Media that he'd "make one more run" at legalizing marijuana through the legislative process. The interview came nearly three months after Sweeney announced that legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes wouldn't "be realized at this time."

Governor Phil Murphy speaks during the All-American Sports Betting Summit at Monmouth Park in Oceanport Tuesday, June 18, 2019.
Buy Photo
Governor Phil Murphy speaks during the All-American Sports Betting Summit at Monmouth Park in Oceanport Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Photo: Thomas P. Costello)

Instead, Sweeney said he'd likely put marijuana legalization a ballot issue during the 2020 election. Since then, Illinois legislators voted to legalize weed while the drug was decriminalized in New York.

But the activists who have pushed for marijuana legalization since even before Murphy took office have been slow to jump on board.

Instead, they've continued talking with legislators during the slow summer months in the hopes of a legitimate push to legalize weed through the Legislature, said Bill Caruso, an attorney and cofounder of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, a marijuana legalization activist group.

"I don't think there's been a big constituency behind (the ballot measure)," Caruso said. "But people are still behind the idea that they can get this done in the lame duck session — and if they can, we should try."

Advocates like Caruso and some legislators have been pushing to legalize marijuana in New Jersey since Murphy took office. They came close in March, when the Senate was just a few votes short from putting a legal weed bill on the floor. The Assembly had enough votes to pass the measure.

While the Assembly had enough votes to pass the legal weed measure, there was never enough support in the Senate, as a number of Democrats — including a number of prominent black senators from urban districts — refused to support full marijuana legalization.

In the aftermath of Sweeney's legal weed derailment, legislators instead passed a medical marijuana expansion bill — which legalized edibles and increased the monthly allotment for patients — and expungement reform bill, which would make marijuana crimes eligible for expungement and cut the waiting period to three years.

In the months since, there's been an increasing hum that decriminalization could be seen as a stopgap if the votes still aren't there to legalize weed, Caruso said.

In May, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, sponsored a bill that would essentially decriminalize the drug. Under that bill, possession of under two ounces of marijuana would be punishable by a $50 fine. It cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


But the state's most powerful legal weed advocates say that decriminalization doesn't go far enough, since selling marijuana would still be a felony and the bill would do "nothing" to address the black market or keep pot away from kids, Caruso said.

Especially not with the potential revival of the marijuana legalization bill.




 

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