Bills legalizing recreational use of cannabis will not go up for vote

New Jersey will not become the next state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. In fact, New Jersey officials will not even vote on the possibility.

At least, not today.

The much-anticipated vote, tentatively scheduled for Monday afternoon in both the General Assembly and the state Senate, was called off when it became clear there were not enough votes in the Senate to pass it.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) released the following statement:

“While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy.

“Gov. (Phil) Murphy has shown real leadership in driving this issue. He worked with Speaker Craig Coughlin, with me and with the bill’s sponsors and social justice advocates in a shared commitment to change failed drug laws and reform the criminal justice system.

“This fight is not over. We need to learn from this experience and continue to move forward.

“While this legislation is not advancing today, I remain committed to its passage. The Senate was very close to 21 votes and, with more education and advocacy, I believe we will get this legislation across the finish line.”

Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) issued the following statement, which he said reiterates his commitment to passage of bills to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis, expand access to medicinal marijuana and enact social justice reforms:

“I’m disappointed that the Legislature was not able to secure sufficient support necessary to approve the adult-use cannabis, medicinal marijuana and expungement bills today, but this is still a historic day. We moved closer to the goal than ever before.

“Today does not mark the end of the process and effort. I remain committed to enacting the legislation. I appreciate the support of the Assembly Caucus for the bills and look forward to continuing to work with the governor and Senate president to pass this landmark legislation, which will serve as a national model.

“I want to thank the governor, the Senate president and the Assembly sponsors of the measure for their commitment to the issue and their staunch advocacy.”

Murphy made legalizing the recreational use of cannabis one of his top issues during the campaign trail, but has failed in his attempts to get the Legislature to pass any potential bills on the subject.

The proposed package of bills that would have gone up for vote Monday would have legalized growth and sales of recreational marijuana, expanded medical marijuana use and set up an expedited system for expungement of marijuana possession and use records.

There was significant controversy over the expungement bill in the past few days, with some legislators saying the bill doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t guarantee expungements will begin as quickly as the business of selling marijuana will.

A last-minute push made by Murphy and Trenton community leaders last week appears to have had no effect on the vote count.

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