The New Jersey legalization bill has hit a snag as Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy wants changes to a decriminalization bill over a technical issue that shields minors from cannabis-related penalties, according to a Patch report. Murphy, a proponent of the reforms, wants to sign both the decriminalization and legalization bills simultaneously but wants cannabis possession penalties for minors to be like those of alcohol: legal for adults 21-and-older to possess and consume but illegal for those who are underage.
In a series of tweets, Matt Friedman, a reporter for Politico who first reported the potential delay, said that Murphy could just sign the bill “with an agreement for a legislative fix” but “doesn’t want to do that.” According to Friedman, the governor could also “schedule a session this week and pass the clean-up legislation with an emergency, if they can get the votes.” However, he said that option “Doesn’t sound likely, even if with remote sessions it’s easier than getting everyone physically together during the holidays.”
The measure was passed by lawmakers earlier this month as required by an Election Day ballot initiative approved by 67% of New Jersey voters.
While some aspects of the law take effect Jan. 1, 2021, officials estimate legal sales will not commence in the state for six to 12 months from the time the bill is signed into law. Any delay in getting the governor’s signature pushes back the timeline.
Some lawmakers and advocates have criticized the measure over its lean social justice provisions, which Sen. Nia Gill referred to as its “weakest part.”
As passed, the legislation directs 70% of the cannabis-derived state sales taxes and an excise tax on cultivation to certain minority communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war. But some argue the language is not strong enough to guarantee the funds go to such community programs. Advocates also wanted the bill to outline a path for those with previous cannabis convictions to enter the legal industry.
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