Call it a tale of two marijuana bills and two New Jersey senators at loggerheads over which marijuana bill should be given priority. Add on top accusations of racial unfairness in the state Senate, given the dearth of Black senators as committee chairs at a time when criminal justice reform is taking center stage in Trenton.
Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus and one of five Black senators in the 40-member Senate, contends that Black Senate Democrats—himself included—are being treated unfairly.
Rice aired his concerns in a three-page release on Sept. 2, accusing Sen. Nick Scutari, D-Union, the longtime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, among other leadership roles, of holding up his marijuana decriminalization bill, S-2535, in favor of the constitutional referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot that will ask state voters whether recreational marijuana use for those 21 and over should be legalized.
Rice went as far as calling on Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who has the power to assign chairmanships to all Senate committees, to remove Scutari as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to be “replaced by a member willing to advance marijuana decriminalization bill S-2535 to immediately correct blatant social injustice in New Jersey.”