Efforts to enact a law clearing certain marijuana convictions stalled on Thursday morning when the state Senate pulled a vote on some of the changes Gov. Phil Murphy wanted to have in the cannabis expungement bill. Lawmakers instead reintroduced the bill yesterday afternoon, which according to Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, contains much of what Murphy wants.
Thursday’s vote on Senate Bill 3205, which would set up a system for wiping certain marijuana offenses from a criminal record was pulled after only 19 Democratic lawmakers showed up. Sweeney said none of the Republican Senators would approve the measure, meaning the bill had no way to get to the 21-member threshold to pass from the floor.
He told reporters immediately following a press conference with Gov. Phil Murphy that the measure will be taken up for a vote during the next Senate voting session.
Thursday’s version of S3205 establishes a “clean slate” expungement process that seals convictions after 10 years of a clean criminal record.
The measure revamps the application process to make it more accessible. Anyone still paying of fines could be eligible for expungement as well, and the money paid would go to the State Treasurer.
Murphy vetoed S3205 in August shortly before Labor Day weekend, sending it back to lawmakers and arguing the state needs an automatic, digital process for expunging those types of convictions.
The governor further argued the measure did not do enough to revamp and fix the state’s beleaguered and overburdened criminal records expungement system.
To that end, Murphy wants $15 million pumped into the state’s expungement apparatus, as well as a task force to gauge the types of technology needed to expand the system.
Sweeney said that the “committee” the governor wants will be in the bill, but it is not immediately clear whether this means the task force.
“A couple of words” Murphy wanted, which “really did have an impact on the bill,” were taken out, according to Sweeney, but it is not clear which language.
Sweeney and other Democratic lawmakers maintained in a statement Thursday from the Senate Democrats Office that they were not rejecting the governor’s conditional veto, and that discussions have been ongoing.
“If expungement is a good step toward responsible citizenship, then we should be broadening the opportunity for people to expunge their records, rejoin the workforce and be fully accepted in society,” Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-31st District, one of S3205’s main sponsor’s, said Thursday.
“Expanding the eligibility for expungement will allow more people to remove that stigma and break down the barriers preventing them from reaching their full potential. That is a principle I know has motivated the governor,” she added.