New Jersey lawmakers passed two different versions of an adult-use cannabis bill out of Assembly and Senate committees Nov. 19, and must now agree on a unified proposal before the legislation can receive floor votes, according to an NJ.com report.
The Assembly Appropriations and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees both approved the bill, S.21/A.21, in 8-4 votes, the news outlet reported, but the legislation that advanced in the Senate excluded a provision that passed in the Assembly that would limit the number of licenses for adult-use cultivators in the early years of the industry.
Lawmakers hoped to hold floor votes on the legislation in both chambers next week, but the votes will be delayed as lawmakers work to reach a consensus, according to NJ.com.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced the bill earlier this month, just days after voters approved a cannabis legalization initiative on Election Day, to implement New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis program.
After some delays due to criticism from social justice advocates, who argued that the bill did not go far enough to address the harms caused by the war on drugs, the legislation appeared to be back on track after lawmakers added amendments to generate more revenue for programs in minority communities, NJ.com reported.
“We know through legislators’ words that racial justice is a high priority in legalization, but we need to see it as a throughline in the policies they present,” ACLU-NJ Policy Director Sarah Fajardo said in a public statement. “While today’s proceedings discussed promising amendments, New Jersey’s cannabis legalization scheme still lags behind other states’ schemes in policies pertaining to racial justice and equity. We need action that puts justice in place while the bill is before lawmakers. We thank the legislature for including key changes in the bills, and urge lawmakers to actualize the community reinvestment, equity in the industry, and access to expungement in the final bill language.”
Lawmakers must pass the bill by the end of the year, before the constitutional amendment approved by voters takes effect Jan. 1.