Lawmakers in New Jersey advanced amended legislation on Thursday to enact a regulated marijuana market in the state, although new differences between Assembly and Senate versions of the proposal mean that further negotiations will be needed before anything can be enacted.
More than two-thirds of New Jersey voters passed a referendum on Election Day to legalize cannabis for adults, but state lawmakers still have to pass legislation to establish rules for the new system before legal sales can begin.
The enabling measures, S21 and A21, were introduced just days after state voters overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. Lawmakers have pushed to pass the legislation as soon as possible to ensure regulations are in place when legalization takes effect on January 1 of next year.
“We’ve got to get this done by the end of the year,” the legislation’s lead sponsor, Sen. Nick Scutari (D), said at the Assembly panel hearing. “If we don’t, we’re going to run into a myriad of other problems.”
The vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee was 7 to 4, although some who voted yes acknowledged that the bill needs additional revisions. At a hearing later in the evening, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved its own version of the bill in an 8-to-3 vote.
Because lawmakers in each chamber have now added different amendments to their versions of the legislation, Assembly and Senate leaders will need to get to work reconciling the bills.