New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Lawmakers Reach Cannabis Legalization Deal

Legal cannabis sales are one step closer to reality after lawmakers and Governor Phil Murphy announced Friday night that they had reached a deal on legislation that will launch the state’s cannabis industry. A full floor vote is expected on December 17. 

While voters passed Public Question 1 on Election Day, lawmakers need to pass legislation to implement the framework for legalization to take effect. 

“Last month, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly to legalize adult-use marijuana,” Murphy Tweeted Friday night, noting that he was “proud to announce an agreement” with New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senator Nicholas Scutari, and Assemblymember Annette Quijano on a “framework for legalization to advance racial, social, and economic justice.” 

The group issued a joint statement on Friday night noting that this legislation is the first step in the ongoing process of shaping cannabis policies in the state. 

“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,” they wrote. 

On November 30, key lawmakers, including Sweeney, Scutari, Senator Sandra Cunningham, and Senator Teresa Ruiz, met virtually during a roundtable discussion on the legalization implementation bill, and on separate decriminalization legislation. 

“Everyone thinks this was about taxes and this is going to save the state budget. It’s not. And we never looked at it that way,” Sweeney said at the start of the meeting. 

Scutari, one of the most vocal cannabis legalization supporters in the state legislature, said that cannabis tax allocation was “never really what I was concentrating the most on.” 

“I didn’t do this for the money, for the tax revenue. Although, it’s a nice secondary effect of it, taking a black market, an illicit market, and making it legalized, making job creation in the economy,” Scutari said, adding that he’s “certainly open-minded.” 

Ruiz, sponsor of the decriminalization legislation, said that “unlike” Scutari, she was focused on where the revenue would be allocated from the earliest cannabis conversations. 

“I was very much interested in where the money was going, because if we were going to talk about creating a new frontier and an economic development opportunity, how could we not really have a discussion based in honesty?” Ruiz asked. “The truths are, the Black and brown communities have been most impacted here.” 

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