Gov. Phil Murphy disputed the notion that his proposed medical marijuana expansion conflicts with a similarly aimed bill moving through the legislature, even though several provisions in the measure and opposition from top lawmakers could the hinder the administration’s moves.
Murphy’s remarks came hours after his administration unveiled a plan to add 108 new medical marijuana businesses, including 24 cultivation sites, 30manufacturing facilities and 54 dispensaries.
The state Legislature is on the cusp of approving its own measure expanding the state’s medical marijuana program after it garnered the approval of the state Senate last week and the Assembly the week before. Assembly Bill 10, recently approved by the lower house, would cap the total number of medicinal cannabis alternative treatment centers at 23 for the first 18 months, including the existing six ATCs and the six more the Murphy administration is adding.
“These aren’t necessarily either-or propositions … it’s not at odds necessarily,” Murphy said in Hackensack Monday morning.
But Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, lambasted the administration’s move as an “immediate and uncontrolled expansion” which could “be destructive to what is a newly-expanding marketplace.”
A10 would loosen regulations governing who can take part in the program as caregivers, doctors and patients; boost how much medicinal cannabis a patient can own at once; and enact employment protections for patients.
“The legislation calls for the oversight board to use its expertise in deciding how to increase the number of facilities to best serve consumers and their medical needs,” Sweeney said in a statement to NJBIZ. “The governor shouldn’t be ignoring what is a good plan and he shouldn’t be ignoring the agreement he has with the Legislature. That’s a bad practice and is becoming a bad habit of his.”
Murphy has not publicly indicated his position on the measure, but Sweeney said the measure includes many features Murphy already agreed to, such as the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
The office of Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, emailed the following statement to NJBIZ from the Speaker: “I am disappointed by the Governor’s action today. For over a year, the Legislature has worked tirelessly with this administration in an effort to create a responsible and accessible medicinal cannabis market. The Legislature understands the obstacles many suffering from critical and chronic illnesses are facing and will undoubtedly remain committed to move forward with legislation that will expand access to medical cannabis in a safe, accessible, and regulated market.
“Everything we put in the bill was agreed upon, we moved components of the adult-use into the medical use, like the commission, but all the things that were moved into the medical bill are things the administration agreed to,” Sweeney said.
The state Senate added an amendment to its version of the expansion bill requiring cannabis businesses to hire union laborers, so the Assembly must vote on the measure again on June 10 before it heads to Murphy’s desk.