One measure (S2518), sponsored by Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean), would amend the state’s recreational marijuana law to ban cannabis consumption for any employee who operates heavy machinery or uses weapons, or whose use of cannabis would “put the public at risk.” That would include any workers who operate tractors, dump trucks, excavators, and bulldozers, plus law enforcement officers.
Sen. Robert Singer
The revised law for under-21s in possession of cannabis or alcohol would operate on a tier system. The first instance would earn a written warning; for the second, parents or guardians would be alerted and given information on educational programs for drug use; for the third, the underage person would be referred to available community services.
Chief Michigan said, “The law inexplicably bans police officers from notifying parents the first time their children are found to be using or in possession of marijuana or alcohol. Overreaching even further, the law criminalizes the good-faith actions of police officers who, smelling marijuana, try to investigate the underage use or possession by a child.
State Sens. Joe Lagana and Brian Stack will back marijuana decriminalization.
According to a New Jersey Globe tally, that brings the number of state senators who opposed legalization but are backing decriminalization up to nine.
State Sens. Declan O’Scanlon, Robert Singer, Ronald Rice, Linda Greenstein and former Governor Dick Codey are also backing the measure, which Democrats are seeking as a stop gap while they await a vote on a 2020 legalization ballot measure.
Editor’s Note: After this article was published, Sens. Linda Greenstein and Dawn Addiego told the New Jersey Globe they were supporting and leaning towards supporting decriminalization, respectively. Greenstein was a soft no on legalization in March. Addiego was simply a no.
Senate Democrats fell five votes short of the 21 needed to pass a marijuana legalization bill in March, but it doesn’t look like they’ll have similar problems with decriminalization.
Five senators who opposed legalization have indicated support for decriminalization.
Senate Democrats voted 33-4 to pass a bill widely expanding medical marijuana availability across New Jersey, nearly doubling the number of dispensaries from 12 to 23 and increasing the amount of medicinal weed patients could buy from two to three ounces a month. It would also regulate edible cannabis and make getting a doctor’s prescription far easier.
The state's top lawmaker, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, said Monday that he's opposed to a bill that would simply fine those caught with small amounts of pot, similar to traffic offenses.
"I really don't have an interest in it," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told NJ Advance Media. "I don't see it moving forward at this time. You're basically legalizing something that's not legal now. If you're gonna do it, do it right. Regulate it and manage it properly."