Days after Gov. Phil Murphy shelved a plan to drastically expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program, the Democratic governor said he will give lawmakers until May to pass the contested legislation or he will resume his efforts on expanding access to medicinal cannabis.
“We’re not going to wait around a lot,” Murphy said at an unrelated event in Saddle Brook early Thursday. Lawmakers cancelled a vote Monday on a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana because the Senate could not come up with the 21 votes needed to pass.
The Assembly had the 41 votes the bill needed, but Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, said he would not put the measure up for a vote without the Senate.
Murphy said later Monday that he would dramatically expand the state’s current medical marijuana program — which serves over 42,000 patients in the state — so that it could accommodate up to 200,000 more people.
A source in the state Legislature said lawmakers wanted him to pull those plans out of fears that Murphy’s expanded medical marijuana program would become “de facto legalization,” making lawmakers less likely to make a potentially risky political move of approving the legal cannabis bill.
Murphy said on Thursday that the family of the late Jake Honig, for which the medical marijuana legislation the Jake Honing Compassionate Use Act was named, contacted him with frustrations that lawmakers were unable to approve the bill.
“We’re holding back enormous demand for the medical regime and Jack’s parents are right,” Murphy said. “I’m prepared to hold off for a short amount of time and I would say that the month of May would be the edge of that.”