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New Jersey Lawmakers Want To Put Marijuana On The Ballot Again, To Steer Revenue To People Hurt By Drug War

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Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization referendum last month, and top lawmakers are already proposing putting cannabis back on the ballot for another vote—but not to undo the reform. Rather, the Senate president and other legislators are pushing a new constitutional amendment to make sure that cannabis tax revenue is steered toward communities harmed by prohibition enforcement.

Meanwhile, in a separate move, lawmakers are stripping a controversial psychedelic mushroom provision out of a bill to decriminalize marijuana in order to ease the path for its passage.

On Tuesday, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and three other Democratic senators unveiled a measure that would funnel most revenue from the state’s adult-use cannabis industry to what the lawmakers refer to as “impact zones,” including Black and Brown communities impacted disproportionately by war on drugs. If approved by the legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment could go before state voters next November.

The legislators said their proposal came in response to pushback from equity advocates during legislative hearings last month on a bill to establish a regulatory framework for legal marijuana. More than two-thirds of voters approved the legalization ballot measure in last month’s election, but lawmakers must first pass enabling legislation to get the market up and running. That bill will determine the flow of millions of dollars in state revenue in addition to the rules for growing, processing and selling commercial cannabis.

“Based on the testimony we heard in the legislature, it is clear that we need to do more to ensure that revenues from the legalization of adult-use cannabis are used primarily to remedy the devastating and disproportionate impact of the ‘War on Drugs’ on predominantly Black and Brown communities in our state,” Sweeney and Democratic Sens. Sandra Cunningham, Nick Scutari and M. Teresa Ruiz said in a joint statement accompanying the proposed constitutional amendment.

The proposal would put before voters a measure that would allocate 70 percent of all state marijuana sales tax revenue and 100 percent of excise fees to social justice programs in the impact zones.

Remaining money would be divided to cover administrative costs of the regulating the new market, local law enforcement training programs and “other restorative justice programs in impact zones,” the lawmakers’ statement says. Municipalities choosing to levy an optional two percent sales tax would keep that money to spend locally.

The Senate version of marijuana enabling legislation has already been amended to redirect those state funds to the community impact zones, but the state Assembly hasn’t adopted those changes. The competing bills have cleared committees in both chambers, but planned floor votes have been canceled as lawmakers continue negotiations with the aim of coming to an agreement on a unified approach.

It’s possible the new equity proposal could provide the Senate with political cover to drop the equity amendments from its enabling legislation and punt the matter to voters. That might allow a quicker compromise with the Assembly and allow legal sales to begin sooner, but it would also leave equity provisions up in the air until voters decide the issue.

On the other hand, passing a constitutional amendment to fund equity efforts may offer additional protections by keeping the funds separate and shielded from the state’s general budgeting process in which lawmakers could otherwise steer the money to other programs.

Democratic leaders in the Senate initially attempted to push the enabling legislation through the legislature just weeks after the election, in order to begin legal sales as soon as possible. But during public comment periods, social equity advocates said the measure failed to deliver on the ballot question’s promise of compensating impacted communities for decades of discriminatory drug policy. Critics also took issue with cannabis tax revenue funding local police departments and the lack of home cultivation rights.

Also this week, Senate lawmakers moved to reverse a last-minute change made to a separate pending measure to decriminalize marijuana possession, removing a section that would have reduced criminal charges for psilocybin mushrooms. Now, the psychedelic reform is being repackaged into a separate bill.

Scutari, who chairs the body’s Judiciary Committee and is one of the lawmakers behind the marijuana enabling bill, abruptly inserted the mushroom provision into the Senate version of the cannabis decriminalization bill last month.

Opponents said the mushroom plan went too far, however, with one Assembly Democrat calling the provision “a poison pill.” The bill cleared the Senate has been stalled in the Assembly ever since.

The provision by Scutari would not have decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms, but instead would have reduced criminal penalties for possessing them. Rather than carrying a prison sentence of three to five years, first-time possession of the entheogenic fungi in New Jersey would instead be punished by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Without the mushroom provision, the marijuana decriminalization measure is expected to pass later this month.

The psilocybin amendment, however, will live on in a different form. On Monday Assemblymember James Kennedy (D) introduced introduced a new bill containing similar sentencing reforms, NJ.com reported.

The constitutional amendment on cannabis revenue could qualify for the ballot if it is approved by both the Assembly and Senate with three-fifths supermajorities in a single legislative session or by simple majorities in two consecutive sessions.

Meanwhile, with neither cannabis decriminalization finalized nor the state’s marijuana market details hammered out, New Jersey’s attorney general told prosecutors last week to suspend most cases for marijuana possession until at least January 25, 2021, as lawmakers decide how to proceed.

“Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature on the parameters for decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of regulated adult-use cannabis,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) said. “It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action.”

Read the full text of the proposed cannabis revenue constitutional amendment below:

New Jersey Marijuana Revenue Constitutional Amendment by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Democratic Congressman Criticizes Planned Marijuana Legalization Vote, Joining GOP Members

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.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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Texas Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Bill In Committee

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

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

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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.
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