New Jersey lawmakers in key committees are set to vote on a package of marijuana-related legislation, including a bill to fully legalize cannabis, on Monday.
You can follow along and watch the hearing live on this feed from NJTV News:
A joint session of the Senate and Assembly panels kicked off around 11:00 AM, with the main bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), discussing the economic and criminal justice benefits of legalization.
— Mike Davis (@byMikeDavis) November 26, 2018
He was followed by Sen. Ron Rice (D), who said that legalization was designed to enrich certain individuals and doesn’t lead to social justice.
Sen. Ron Rice is halfway through his remarks and, guess what, he's still opposed to marijuana legalization.
— Sam Sutton (@samjsutton) November 26, 2018
Observers have noted that turnout at Monday’s hearing is exceptional, with advocates and opponents of marijuana reform packing the chamber.
Today marks the long-awaited public hearing on the bill to legalize recreational #marijuana in N.J. I’ve never seen a committee room this packed in Trenton in my six years covering the Statehouse. #MarijuanaMonday pic.twitter.com/xlIVqS2nie
— Brent Johnson (@johnsb01) November 26, 2018
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), co-founder of the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, spoke out against the legalization bill and sparred with lawmakers. At one point, he was asked whether he believes alcohol should be prohibited—and after hesitating to respond, he said he did not but that alcohol advertisements should be more tightly regulated.
"Do you believe alcohol should be prohibited?" @SenatorScutari asks opponent of legalization after he had said "it didn't work with alcohol" when talking about various regulations. #njlegalizationhearing
— ACLU of New Jersey (@ACLUNJ) November 26, 2018
There are three bills on the docket. Adult-use legalization is the centerpiece legislation, with retail sales taxed at 12 percent, but there are also bills to expand the state’s existing medical cannabis program and expedite expungements for low-level marijuana offenses. Read the full text of the latest versions of all three bills here.
This story will be updated with highlights from the hearings.