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It appears that Democrats realize that not allowing police to give written notice to parents the first time they catch their kids smoking weed or drinking alcohol is a potent issue Republicans could use against them this fall.
A Democratic-backed bill to clarify that cops can inform parents was introduced last week and appears to be on the fast track. It’s a clean-up bill of the last marijuana clean-up bill.
Specifically, the new legislation would make underage possession or consumption of alcohol or marijuana subject to a written warning on the first violation. Second violations would carry a written warning as well, along with information for those 18 and older about community services, including counseling. Those under 18 would also get a written warning, along with their parents or guardians being notified. Third violations carry similar consequences, but with a written referral — instead of just information — for community services.
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.
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We’re about two weeks from the deadline for Gov. Murphy to act on the weed legalization and decriminalization bills on his desk, and negotiations to date haven’t gotten far.
Feb. 8 is the drop dead date, as that’s the first quorum in the Assembly — where both bills originated — after the bill has been on Murphy’s desk for 45 days.
The administration has held conference calls with lawmakers, most recently the Assembly’s Black members. But they haven’t been fruitful.
New Jersey’s long journey to legalize recreational adult-use marijuana remains mired in what is rapidly becoming a standoff between the governor and the Legislature. For the moment, neither side is showing any sign of budging.
Companion bills to legalize and decriminalize marijuana were passed nearly a month ago. Gov. Phil Murphy has not signed them into law and he is demanding a third bill be passed that would specify penalties for minors caught with marijuana.
The fate of legislation to legalize marijuana — scheduled for a vote in the Legislature Monday — is uncertain once again.
In a Friday caucus meeting with Democratic Senators, lawmakers decided to pull a so-called cleanup bill that the governor had demanded to fix what he considered a shortcoming in the original bills passed Dec. 17.
Members of the Black and Latino legislative caucuses voiced strong objection to the cleanup bill, which specified penalties for minors who are caught possessing marijuana, according to Sen. Nicholas Scutari, sponsor of the legalization bill.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari has removed his name a bill to clean up the state’s yet-unsigned legal marijuana enabling legislation after objections from the black legislators, a move that will delay a vote by the full Senate on Monday.
“I stand with the Legislative Black Caucus and Senator (Ronald) Rice,” said Scutari, a 20-year supporter of marijuana legalization.
He said he agrees with Rice that proposed changes to the bill would lead to “more interactions for Black and Brown people with the police.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) today extended an olive branch to State Sen. Ronald Rice (R-Newark).
“The Senate chamber is not a place for personal attacks, as my name was continually under attack during the marijuana legalization debate. I unfortunately responded in kind. I should not have done that and for that I am sorry,” Scutari said. “While we vehemently disagree on the policy of marijuana legalization, I should not have personally disparaged him or his commitment to his community.”
As with all things cannabis in New Jersey, Thursday’s historic vote was marked by dysfunction, vicious political infighting and resentment.
Shortly after moving the bill to the floor with an emotional speech meant to cap his yearslong legalization effort, Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the lead sponsor, got into a shouting match with Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex), head of the Legislative Black Caucus and a cannabis opponent, over who had done more (or less) for disadvantaged communities.