Legislature abandons plans on cannabis clean-up bill

Daniel J. Munoz//February 18, 2021

Legislature abandons plans on cannabis clean-up bill

Daniel J. Munoz//February 18, 2021

The state Senate said Feb.17 it is abandoning plans to push forward a cannabis clean-up bill desired by Gov. Phil Murphy, according to the measure’s top legislative sponsor.

Murphy now has until Friday, Feb. 19 to decide whether he will approve the two bills on his desk – one legalizing marijuana and the other decriminalizing it – or have them automatically become law as written. His office did not return requests for comment.

Lawmakers sent him both measures on Dec. 17, after voters approved a ballot question by a two to one margin in November saying that recreational marijuana should be legal for those above the age of 21, and that it should be taxed and regulated. But the governor lamented that the bill did not include penalties for underage use of marijuana, and so talks dragged on in an attempt to address his concerns.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District

“The bills that are on his desk are the ones that should be signed. There’s no need for a clean-up bill,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District, the bill’s sponsor, said in a phone interview.

Any proposed clean-up bill, which would have focused on how to handle underage possession of cannabis, did not garner enough support needed to pass the state Senate, according to Scutari. A bill needs at least 21 votes in order to pass.

The two bills on his desk contradict each other: one makes underage possession a disorderly person offense while the other creates blanket decriminalization for possession of up to six ounces of cannabis.

“All of this stuff is going to be revised overtime,” Scutari said.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus worried that youth enforcement could disproportionately affect Black and Brown young people who have for generations borne the brunt of law enforcement efforts.