The Legislature passed two marijuana bills on Dec. 17 — one to launch a cannabis industry and the other to decriminalize possession for adults. But Murphy has since demanded an additional “cleanup” bill to address a contradiction in the two measures over penalties for minors caught with marijuana. The legalization bill makes underage possession a disorderly-persons offense, while the decriminalization bill does away with all penalties. Murphy would not sign a bill, he said, that makes marijuana legal for minors.
But several drafts of a cleanup bill have come up short.
The deal-killer Wednesday was reportedly the result of a heated disagreement among lawmakers over how to hold police officers accountable if they mistreat Black and brown minors caught with marijuana.
Some members of the Black Caucus — led by Sens. Ronald Rice and Nia Gill (both D-Essex) — insisted on eliminating “qualified immunity” from lawsuits for police officers who mistreat minors with marijuana, according to two legislative sources involved in the process.
The quest to legalize marijuana has now morphed into a police-reform measure. That has predictably prompted pushback from police unions and some of the more conservative lawmakers. Either way, the bill no longer has enough votes to pass.
“Underage penalties, all of those issues are explained in the original bills,” Scutari told NJ Advance Media, pulling the plug on negotiations. “All avenues to clarify it any further are exhausted.”