The New Jersey Senate on Monday approved a marijuana decriminalization bill as lawmakers continue to discuss broader enabling legislation to legalize cannabis following voter approval of the issue on Election Day.
Members of the Assembly were also scheduled to take up the decriminalization proposal—which would eliminate criminal and civil penalties for marijuana possession of up to six ounces. But that action was postponed, in part over disagreements about an amendment added in committee last week that would lower penalties for possession of psilocybin mushrooms.
Since the election, state legislators have been prioritizing cannabis reform. While the constitutional amendment voters passed will legalize marijuana as of January 1, it’s still up to the legislature to create regulations for the program, and a bill to accomplish that was introduced days after the vote. It was approved by committees in both chambers last week, but a vote in appropriations panels was cancelled on Thursday over disputes on certain components, primarily tax-related.
Senate leaders and the office of Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who strongly campaigned in favor of the legalization referendum, have reportedly struck a deal to add an excise tax on cannabis at the cultivation level on top of the 6.625 percent state sales tax that’s stipulated in the referendum. And now Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) says the planned committee votes will proceed on Thursday, with a full floor vote expected on Monday.