Gov. Phil Murphy has been making “dozens of calls” to lawmakers in both the state Assembly and Senate in an effort to garner their votes in support of a bill legalizing marijuana, a senior administration official told NJBIZ.
The legislation needs 21 votes to pass the Senate and 41 votes to pass the Assembly, and several of the state Legislature’s top Democrats said Murphy needs to put in more effort in garnering the votes of lawmakers if he hopes to see a bill on his desk.
It is not clear what the vote count is in either chamber, but a vote is scheduled for March 25.
“I’m all in and I have to be on this,” Murphy said at an unrelated press conference in Fort Lee on Monday.
If the legislation – Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497 – do not pass next week, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said he would not likely focus on the marijuana bill until the fall, after budget negotiations where lawmakers might use legalization as a bargaining chip.
Lawmakers in both chambers met behind closed doors on Monday to hammer out a series of last-minute amendments related to the expungement process for marijuana convictions.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have to approve S2703, was scheduled to convene at 2 p.m. but as of 5 p.m. Monday had not done so. Meanwhile, the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which would hear A4497, was supposed to convene at 12 p.m. to vote on the measure, while they did meet – they did not vote on A4497.
The Senate Judiciary Committee said it would not accept any testimony on the amendments, while the Assembly Appropriations Committee said it would accept a maximum of three minutes of testimony for any person.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Bateman, R-16th District, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will not support S2703.
A4497 and S2703 would legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana for adult use, vastly expand the state’s existing medicinal marijuana program and set up an expungement process for marijuana-related convictions.
Anyone over 21 can own up to an ounce of marijuana, which would be taxed at $42 an ounce. A five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission would oversee regulatory and enforcement aspects of the state’s marijuana industry.