New Jerseyans are tantalizingly close to having a constitutional right to use cannabis — but not yet. And based on what happened at the Statehouse on Thursday, not nearly as soon as lawmakers had hoped.
After a pair of committee hearings, Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly remain far apart on key provisions of enabling legislation that sets the legal and regulatory framework for the state’s legalization amendment, which takes effect Jan. 1.
As of Thursday evening, however, important questions remain about the licensing of cultivation facilities — a provision that has significant bearing on New Jersey’s supply of recreational cannabis and potential tax revenues — as well as the use of those revenues. There are also concerns relating to employers who want to maintain a drug-free work space.
Until the enabling legislation is signed, cannabis use remains illegal. A separate bill that decriminalizes possession of up to six ounces of the drug — which appeared to be on a legislative fast track after voters approved the constitutional amendment — has stalled in the Assembly over concerns with both the amount of cannabis allowed and a surprise amendment that lessens criminal penalties for possessing psilocybin mushrooms.
Full votes had been scheduled for Monday in both chambers, but the two houses are now so far apart that, shortly after the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted to send its amended version of the enabling bill to the floor, Senate leaders canceled Monday’s voting session.