Another week has come and gone and once again there is no news to report on the status of legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis and expand the medicinal marijuana program.
The scheduled Jan. 10 meeting between Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin did not happen – apparently a casualty of the the special legislative committee investigating how Murphy’s team responded to Katie Brennan’s rape allegations.
The trio may reschedule the meeting for later this month, according to multiple reports.
Even if that happens, the cannabis bills will take a backseat to negotiations on raising the minimum wage.
NJ.com reported that three state Senators – Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Somerset, and Chris Brown, R-Atlantic -will vote for legalization in return for spending reforms
“There should be no votes for marijuana legalization until we clearly delineate where this money will be invested,” O’Scanlon told NJ Cannabis Insider. “And the top of the list has to be training of DREs,” or Drug Recognition Experts.
Murphy will give his first State of the State address Tuesday. It will be interesting if and how the cannabis legislation comes up.
In general, the developments – or more accurately, lack of developments – have industry insiders growing more and more concerned.
Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, expressed his worries in an email newsletter last week: “This postponement is certainly a ‘bad’ sign in our efforts to end prohibition in the near term.”
This brings me back to something Bill Caruso, the managing director at Archer Public Affairs, told NJ Cannabis Media when it first became clear there would be no vote in December.
“To some extent this is a long time coming, we can wait a couple of weeks,” Caruso said of pushing back the vote. “I am concerned that if this does bleed on into the budget process then we start talking about well, maybe this is a June thing.”
And the more it gets pushed back the more complicated passage gets.
“I’ve also started to hear, well, if we can’t get this done maybe we could go to the ballot,” he continued.
That would require a constitutional amendment and a November vote for a December enactment in a lame-duck legislature.
“And then, if we don’t get the enactment bill done, then we’re starting with a new legislative effort in the new term in January 2020,” he added. “Then we’re trying to get some something enacted where we won’t be selling legal cannabis in our state to probably 2021?