Connect with us

Politics

New Jersey Lawmakers Advance Revised Marijuana Sales Bill, With Floor Votes Expected This Week

Published

on

About a month after New Jersey voters approved a marijuana legalization referendum, a key Senate committee on Monday advanced a newly revised bill to implement regulations for the program, with a floor vote expected on Thursday.

The panel also approved another piece of legislation to reduce penalties for possession of psilocybin mushrooms. That was originally included in a separate marijuana decriminalization bill, but it was removed amid controversy and instead made into its own standalone legislation.

Lawmakers quickly got to work crafting legislation that would set rules for the marijuana market following the ballot measure’s passage, and differing versions cleared appropriations panels in the Assembly and Senate last month. Leaders from both branches have since negotiated with one another and with Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to arrive at a unified approach.

Now the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed the resulting cannabis sales bill in a 6-5 vote.

Advocates have encouraged the legislature to swiftly enact cannabis sales regulations, but they’ve pushed back on the initial proposal that was introduced, arguing that it did not go far enough to address social equity and restorative justice for communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The new version seeks to address those concerns, but some activists say it is still inadequate.

The new bill includes Senate-supported provisions to allocate 70 percent of marijuana tax revenue to community reinvestment programs such as legal aid, workforce training and mentoring.

The Assembly secured a win as well, with negotiators agreeing to include the chamber’s proposal to cap cannabis cultivation licenses at 37 for the first two years. Activists want no caps, as they feel it would limit minority participation in the industry. Microgrow licenses for businesses with 10 or fewer employees would be uncapped.

Tax revenue would also go toward public education and law enforcement training, in addition to covering administrative costs.

“This is a historic step forward for New Jersey that will put us in the forefront of the reform movement,” Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said in a press release. “We will now be able to move forward to correct social and legal injustices that have had a discriminatory impact on communities of color at the same time that marijuana is regulated and made legal for adults. This represents a significant change in public policy that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy.”

The legislation does not create a special category of licenses for equity business applicants and continues to criminalize the act of growing small amounts of marijuana at home for one’s own consumption, which are points of contention for many legalization supporters.

In any case, the recent compromises between top lawmakers are clearing the path for floor votes, which are expected on Thursday. The Assembly is also expected to take up the separate bill to decriminalize marijuana possession on that day. The Senate approved it last month when it still had the psilocybin component attached.

In the meantime, the Assembly Appropriations Committee is set to vote on the revised legal sales implementation legislation on Tuesday.

After a deal was reached, Murphy, Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D), Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D) and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D) released a joint statement saying the legislation “will accomplish our shared goals of delivering restorative justice and ensuring that the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs see the economic benefits of the adult-use cannabis market.”

While the bill advanced on Monday, there was some debate during the hearing over provisions related to workplace and roadside drug testing. Several advocates also testified in favor of enhancing the legislation’s social equity components.

“The cannabis legalization bill advanced by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee today is testament to the hard work of advocates, community organizers, and faith leaders across New Jersey who fought to ensure that our state prioritizes reparations for communities of color as we launch this historic new cannabis market,” Rev. Charles Boyer, founding director of Salvation and Social Justice, said in a press release.

“Although there are several more provisions we would like to see, we cannot understate how far this has come,” he said. “While legislators initially tried to rush through a framework that perpetuated an oppressive status quo, today’s bill includes powerful elements that will promote racial justice as we legalize cannabis statewide—including a social equity excise tax and 70 percent of the sales tax that will directly fund community programs in parts of the state devastated by the drug war and lifts the caps for licenses after two years.”

At the hearing, Scutari emphasized the importance of passing this implementation legislation sooner rather than later.

He said failing to do so would mean that the state would “have a constitutional crisis like you’ve never seen before you’re going to have the constitution saying it’s legal,” yet there would be no regulations. “We’ll have shirked our responsibility to the public,” he said.

Prior to the compromise deal, Sweeney and other Democratic senators released another cannabis-related constitutional amendment that would go before voters. If approved, it would ensure that a majority of tax revenue from marijuana sales would go to communities most affected by cannabis criminalization, shielding the funds from being moved to other programs during the state’s annual budget process.

Meanwhile, as legislators work to advance the implementation bill, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) is directing prosecutors to adjourn most marijuana possession cases until at least January 25. The day after the referendum vote, he issued initial guidance to prosecutors, encouraging them to use discretion when it comes to cannabis offenses that will soon be codified as legal.

Meanwhile, the psilocybin bill that’s advancing would not decriminalize the fungi, per se. But it would make low-level possession punishably by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, rather than three to five years of incarceration. An Assembly committee approved that chamber’s version of the mushroom bill last week and it is set to receive a floor vote on Thursday.

Separately on Monday, the Senate Judiciary panel also approved legislation to revise “the restrictions that apply to ownership of or investment in a medical cannabis dispensary and other types of alternative treatment centers,” according to a summary.

Feds Announce Plan To Continue Marijuana Manufacturing Monopoly, At Least For Now

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Politics

Texas Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Bill In Committee

Published

on

A bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Texas—as well as a separate proposal to reduce penalties for possessing cannabis concentrates—advanced out of a key House committee on Friday.

These are the latest developments that have come after a week where Texas lawmakers have considered a medley of marijuana reform measures. But arguably the most significant piece of cannabis legislation to move out of committee would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a class C misdemeanor that carries a fine but no threat of jail time.

The full House of Representatives approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session.

This time around, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved the decriminalization bill, which would also prevent law enforcement from making arrests over low-level possession. Other decriminalization proposals that were under consideration by the panel this week would not prohibit that enforcement action, which is key because police are currently able to incarcerate people who are arrested for class C misdemeanors even though the charge itself does not carry the risk of jail time in sentencing.

The advancing legislation, HB 441, sponsored by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D), would also prevent the loss of a driver’s license or the creation of a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce.

Separately, the committee advanced legislation to make possession of up to two ounces of cannabis concentrates a class B misdemeanor.

Both bills were among the subjects a lengthy hearing the panel held on Tuesday.

“Marijuana bills are moving through the committee process at record speed this session,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment. “There’s good reason to be optimistic about the upcoming votes and the House and advocates will be doubling down their efforts to influence senators.”

This action comes one day after the House Public Health Committee unanimously approved a bill to significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

Sponsored by Chairwoman Stephanie Klick (R), the bill would add cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (for veterans only) as conditions that could qualify people for the state’s limited medical cannabis program.

It would further allow the Department of State Health Services to add more qualifying conditions via administrative rulemaking. And it would also raise the THC cap for medical marijuana products from 0.5 percent to five percent.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

On Thursday, the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee also discussed legislation that would make certain changes to the state’s hemp program, including imposing rules related to the transportation and testing of consumable hemp products.

While the Texas legislature has historically resisted most cannabis reforms, there are signs that this session may be different.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said during a Texas Young Republicans event last month that while he wouldn’t be able to distinguish marijuana from oregano, he said, “I understand the issue.”

The speaker said that he voted for a limited medical cannabis legalization bill during his freshman year in the legislature, and his support for the reform is partly based on the fact that he has a “sister with severe epilepsy, and small amounts of CBD oil makes a big difference in people’s lives.”

Phelan also noted that he was a “joint author—no pun intended” of cannabis decriminalization legislation last session.

“I was able to go back home and explain it, and it wasn’t a big deal,” he said. “To me, it’s a reasonable criminal justice reform issue.”

Texans’ support for legalizing marijuana has grown significantly over the past decade, according to a poll released last month.

Sixty percent of state voters now back making cannabis legal “for any use,” the University of Texas and Texas Tribune survey found. That compares to just 42 percent who said the same back in 2010.

Leaders in both chambers of the legislature have recently indicated that they anticipate more modest proposals to be taken up and potentially approved this session, particularly as it concerns expanding the state’s limited medical cannabis program.

Phelan said he thinks “the House will look at” reform measures this year, including bills to legalize for adult use. He said the lawmakers will likely “review those again, and some will get traction, some will not.” However, the Senate remains an obstacle for comprehensive reform.

Legislators in the state prefiled more than a dozen pieces of cannabis legislation ahead of the new session. That includes bills that would legalize recreational marijuana, allow high-THC cannabis for medical use and decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana.

That said, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the Senate, has killed prior efforts to enact reform in the state, raising questions about the prospects of far-reaching changes advancing in the chamber.

Nevada Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Bill To Allow On-Site Consumption Lounges

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Nevada Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Bill To Allow On-Site Consumption Lounges

Published

on

A bill to allow on-site marijuana consumption lounges advanced through a Nevada Assembly committee on Friday. The panel separately passed a measure making it so the concentration of THC in a person’s blood cannot be singularly used to determine impairment while driving.

The social use legislation, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Steve Yeager (D), would create two new licensing categories for cannabis businesses in the state. One would be for “retail cannabis consumption lounges” and the other would be an “independent cannabis consumption lounge.”

Existing retailers could apply for the former license and sell products that could be consumed on-site by adults 21 and older. Independent lounges would not be permitted to sell cannabis on their own, but would need to have marijuana products delivered to consumers from another source.

That said, independent licensees could submit a request to regulators to sell cannabis that they produce or to enter into a contract with an adult-use retailer to sell their products.

The state’s Cannabis Compliance Board would also be responsible for creating regulations for on-site facilities and setting fees for license applicants. Businesses that qualify as social equity applicants would have a reduced fee.

Under the legislation, a person “who has been adversely affected by provisions of previous laws which criminalized activity relating to cannabis, including, without limitation, adverse effects on an owner, officer or board member of the applicant or on the geographic area in which the applicant will operate” is considered a social equity applicant.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 900 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Yeager proposed a large-scale amendment to the proposal before it was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It builds on the definition and scoring system for social equity applicants, revises public safety requirements for lounges and ensures that products purchased at lounges cannot be removed from the facility, among other changes.

The Las Vegas City Council in 2019 approved an ordinance allowing for social consumption sites within city limits.

That year, Alaska became the first state to enact regulations that provide for the on-site use option at dispensaries. Colorado followed suit with legislation approved that legalized cannabis “tasting rooms” and “marijuana hospitality establishments” where adults could freely use cannabis. Social consumption sites are also provided for in New York’s recently enacted marijuana legalization law.

In Nevada, adding new license types and giving consumers this option—especially in the tourist-centric state—could further boost marijuana and other tax revenues. And Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has had a particular interest in ensuring that those tax dollars support public education, which he talked about during a State of the State address in January.

Sisolak has also committed to promoting equity and justice in the state’s marijuana law. Last year, for example, he pardoned more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level cannabis possession.

That action was made possible under a resolution the governor introduced that was unanimously approved by the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners.

Under the impaired driving bill that separately cleared the committee on Friday, the per se blood test for THC would no longer be used in determining impairment.

Advocates have argued that the limit is arbitrary and there’s a lack of scientific evidence demonstrating a link between the amount of THC metabolites present in the blood and active impairment.

New Mexico Governor Sends Marijuana Bill Sponsors A ‘Save The Date’ For Expected Legalization Bill Signing

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Biden Gets Yet Another Congressional Letter Blasting Marijuana-Related White House Firings

Published

on

President Joe Biden has received yet another letter from a lawmaker demanding answers about his administration’s practice of firing or otherwise punishing staffers for prior marijuana use.

Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) noted the national push to end prohibition and how the White House’s actions reveal a troubling disconnect.

“Cannabis is legal for either medical or adult use in 36 states, with numerous states pursuing efforts to further legalize for adult use,” the congresswoman wrote. “In Minnesota, our state legislature is expected to vote on measures to legalize cannabis in the coming months following years of political and community organizing by activists throughout the state.”

“Minnesotans and the American people are demanding change to our harsh and unequally applied cannabis laws,” she wrote. “I look forward to seeing your Administration reverse course on this harmful and unnecessary hurdle to hiring diverse and talented public servants.”

Craig also mentioned efforts to legalize marijuana at the federal level and commented on Biden’s prior statements on more modest reforms.

“I stand ready to work with you as we revisit our country’s drug laws, including the descheduling of cannabis as a Class 1 drug at the federal level,” she said. “You have previously expressed your commitment to decriminalizing cannabis in acknowledgement that a cannabis conviction or even the stigma of cannabis use can ruin lives and prevent people from voting, gaining employment and contributing to society.”

This is the third letter from lawmakers that Biden has been sent regarding the federal marijuana employment controversy.

A coalition of 30 members of Congress sent a letter last month that sharply criticizes the administration for terminating or punishing multiple White House staffers who disclosed their prior cannabis use. They pointed out that Vice President Kamala Harris and at least one one other Cabinet member are on record about their own marijuana use experiences.

Prior to that, Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) sent a similar message to the president condemning news of the marijuana-related firings for people who were honest about their history with cannabis on a federal form that’s required as part of the background check process.

“Simply put, in a nation where the truth is considered malleable, we need to demonstrate to our young public servants that telling the truth is an honorable trait, not one to be punished,” the congressman wrote. “I respectfully request that your administration discontinue punishment of staff for being honest about their prior cannabis use and reinstate otherwise qualified individuals to their posts.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed the controversy last month, saying during a press briefing that while Biden could theoretically end the policy of firing staff over prior marijuana use himself, that’s not happening as long as cannabis is federally illegal.

She later said that the president’s stance on marijuana legalization “has not changed,” meaning he’s still opposed to the comprehensive reform.

Psaki has previously attempted to minimize the fallout over the cannabis firings, with not much success, and so her office released a statement last month stipulating that nobody was fired for “marijuana usage from years ago,” nor has anyone been terminated “due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.”

Read the new letter to Biden on White House marijuana employment policy below: 

Letter to Biden Regarding C… by Marijuana Moment

New Mexico Governor Sends Marijuana Bill Sponsors A ‘Save The Date’ For Expected Legalization Bill Signing

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment