On Wednesday, the N. J. state Senate President said that he would look to voters next year to decide the fate of recreational pot in the state. Additionally, Democrat Steve Sweeney will reportedly pursue two separate bills aimed at expanding medical cannabis and wiping out clean some of the criminal records.
Sweeney, who has support from fellow Democrats Gov. Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, vowed that recreational marijuana would become legal, just not at the moment.
If the measure to legalize recreational marijuana had not fizzled out on Wednesday, New Jersey would have become the 11th state to embrace it. “The bill just doesn’t have enough votes to pass,” Sweeney told a leading news agency.
In an unrelated conference held on Monday, Murphy said that he had a “mixed reaction” for the announcement. However, he was still in favor of going ahead with medical marijuana expansion and criminal records expungement.
“It is tough to do it legislatively,” he said about adult-use legalization. “Only one state in the history of the United States has done it and that’s Vermont, but we are a lot more complicated than Vermont. It’s always been a default to go to a referendum and let people decide.”
In order to get on the ballot, the proposed question needs the backing of at least 60% (or three-fifths) of the lawmakers. Alternatively, a simple majority of lawmakers must approve it in two consecutive years.
At the moment though it is not certain how the amendment would be worded and which path would be chosen.
The Assembly Speaker, Craig Coughlin, said in a statement that he supports Sweeney for both the bills; however, the former did not mention whether he is in favor of a referendum or not.
While the first bill would increase the number of dispensaries and licensed physicians who could prescribe marijuana, the second one would allow for the expungement of controlled dangerous substance convictions of the 3rd or the 4th degree.