Cannabis Negotiations Stall in New Jersey


The cannabis legalization “cleanup bill” just died in a New Jersey Senate Committee, when a committee meeting was cancelled this week. 

The meeting was cancelled by Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden). Due to the cancellation, the bill won’t be able to move on to the next stage of voting. 

Another hurdle to legalizing cannabis in New Jersey is Governor Phil Murphy, who has so far ignored all the legalization and decriminalization bills that have landed on his desk. He objected to provisions that would remove penalties for underage use of cannabis. 

The cleanup bill has now stalled several times. Some of the objections have come from POC legislators who claim that penalties in the cleanup would expose youth of color to police interactions. 

So far, the governor has insinuated that he will veto the bills unless provisions and changes are made, and all parties can come to an agreement. That could definitely take time. 

“If he vetoes it, yeah, we’ll be going back to the drawing board, but I don’t know when that’s going to be,” Scutari said. “That’s going to be not now. We’ve got to get into the budget. We’ve got a lot of other things. It can’t just be a lot of marijuana all the time, and that’s not just me. There’s been a lot of members that have spent a lot of time on this now.”

The bills, which were sent to Governor Murphy on December 17, sat unsigned until the 45-day period in which they were expected to be approved was up. 

Legislative processes have also been delayed previously, as the February 8 caucus was pushed initially, and then had to be pushed back again due to inclement weather. 

Now, the most recent, cancelled committee meeting means that it is officially too late to get the bill on the floor this week, unless Democrats can get emergency vote status. 

For the Democrats, this means they have failed to legalize, and they will face criticism from the cannabis community. Legalization  has a lot of support in New Jersey, and many are following this process closely. 

“The people have spoken. They expect legislation. They expect this to begin, and a veto would really be a bad sign,” Scutari said. “All that means is this is going to happen this year, and I would expect that the voters would not be happy.”

Still, despite the situation, he feels this will not impact his political career, as he has advocates for cannabis as much as possible. 

“I’m not worried about it. I’ve done everything I can do,” he said. “I can pass it. I can sponsor it. I can’t sign it. I’ve been the leading proponent of legalized marijuana for over a decade, so I’m proud to run on my record of what we’ve done, but it’s one person standing in between it.”

New Jersey is still frustratingly stalled when it comes to the legalization process, as they have yet to achieve a clear plan to make their legal cannabis system a reality. 



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