Legislative leaders finally announced they had agreed on a proposed plan on December 4th in a joint statement from Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari, and Assembly Majority Conference Chair Annette Quijano: “We’ve reached an agreement on legislation providing the framework for legalization, which is a critical step in reducing racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system. This legislation will accomplish our shared goals of delivering restorative justice and ensuring that the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs see the economic benefits of the adult-use cannabis market. While there is still much work ahead, we are one step closer to building a new, promising industry for our state.”
That legislation will be sent to the floor for the final vote on Thursday, December 17th. So, then, what’s next? And what, exactly, are they voting on?
First: What’s Up for Vote on December 17th?
On December 17th, legislators will vote on three bills: one outlining the legalization of cannabis, another detailing the decriminalization of cannabis, and yet another that would downgrade penalties for possession of one ounce or less of psilocybin mushrooms.
What Happens After Dec. 17th?
“Well, hopefully, the Governor [Murphy] signs [the bills] right away,” Senator Scutari tells Rolling Stone. Should all the bills pass, possession of cannabis would be decriminalized on January 1st — possession, not sales. That process will take a little longer.
The next step in legalization would be the formation of a cannabis regulatory commission (CRC). The CRC will be a board of five people — one appointed by the state senate president, one by the speaker of the assembly, and three by the governor. Murphy named Dianna Houenou — current administration staffer and former ACLU policy counsel for New Jersey — as leader of the CRC in November. He also nominated Jeff Brown to serve as executive director.