The governor of New Jersey on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to passing legislation to get a legal marijuana market up and running after voters approved a legalization referendum in November.
In a State of the State address, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said “we are on the verge of passing an innovative and groundbreaking set of laws to reform our historically unjust approach to marijuana and cannabis.”
Advocates had hoped that the legislature would have moved quicker to approve enabling legislation, but disagreements between lawmakers and the governor over certain provisions concerning underaged people have delayed the reform.
Watch Murphy discuss plans to implement marijuana legalization below:
A “clean up” bill was expected to get a floor vote on Monday, but it was postponed after key legislators pulled their support.
“Two months ago, you voted overwhelmingly to legalize adult-use marijuana, and begin the process of ending the racial imbalance that disproportionately penalizes black and brown people arrested for marijuana offenses,” the governor said in his address. “We’re setting up a cannabis industry that will promote the growth of new small businesses, many of which will be owned by women, minorities and veterans.”
We’re on the verge of passing a groundbreaking set of laws to reform our historically unjust approach to marijuana and cannabis.
Our cannabis industry will promote the growth of new small businesses – many of which will be owned by women, minorities, and veterans.#NJSOTS
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) January 12, 2021
“This hasn’t been an easy fight, nor has it happened as quickly as I would have liked, but we are in a better place, a smarter place and a more just place than ever before,” he said.
Lawmakers first introduced the marijuana regulatory bill in November, shortly after voters approved the reform referendum. Since then, it’s been subject to a number of changes and delays in legislative action.
The latest dispute centers on Murphy’s concerns about a lack of penalties for people under 21 who possess cannabis. The governor indicated that he might not be willing to sign the legislation without such provisions, but lawmakers have insisted in recent days that it is not their intent to criminalize underage people.
Murphy said earlier this week that remains “optimistic” that he can reach a deal with lawmakers to revise the enabling legislation they sent him last month, but Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said that “the ball’s in his court,” referring to the governor.
Murphy isn’t the only governor with cannabis policy on the mind. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday discussed the need to legalize marijuana in 2021 during his State of the State address.
In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) also talked about his intent to work with lawmakers to enact legalization during his State of the Commonwealth address last week.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said in his State of the Commonwealth address last week that “it is time to legalize medical marijuana.”
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.