Governor, legislature at impasse once again over legal cannabis

Gabrielle Saulsbery//January 8, 2021//

Governor, legislature at impasse once again over legal cannabis

Gabrielle Saulsbery//January 8, 2021//

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The primary sponsor of the amendatory bill intended to clarify technical issues within the not-yet-signed cannabis legalization and decriminalization bills said he is removing his name as the bill’s sponsor because he’s confident it won’t pass and that the amendatory bill is unnecessary.

“We already had an agreement on a previous bill, and the members believe this bill is a good bill and it should be signed. It doesn’t need a cleanup. There’s nothing to clean up,” said Sen. Nick Scutari, D-22 District. “There seems to be a lot of nitpicking. To go through the bill and try to discern the word ‘cannabis’ from ‘marijuana’…they’re interchangeable.”

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District – NJBIZ FILE PHOTO

“We had an agreed-upon bill. It’s what went to the governor’s desk. Somebody in there, and I’m not saying it’s Gov. Murphy, is like, ‘we’ve gotta change this, we’ve gotta change that,” he said.

The amendatory bill, Senate Bill 3320, passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee 7-3 Jan. 7. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed the legislature and has been sitting on the governor’s desk since Dec. 17.

The governor wouldn’t sign the legalization and decriminalization bills due to a technical error that administration officials said legalized cannabis for children, which an official with knowledge of the negotiations said: “would make us an aberration amongst all U.S. states.”

The amendatory bill sought to clarify penalties for underage possession.

“There was an agreement among the Senate leadership and governor’s office to pass this agreement on Monday, but the Senate seems to be backtracking. There’s some education that needs to be done for long-term members,” the official said.

The next move is the governor’s, Scutari said: either sign it or veto it, conditionally or absolutely.

“Believe me, I didn’t want to do this. I worked on the bill that’s on the desk for years. But I know [the amendatory bill] wasn’t going to pass, and I’m not here to waste time, I’m here to get something done. This is a conciliatory type of amendment bill, and if we’re not going to agree on it, we shouldn’t [vote on it],” Scutari said.