Hopes of a compromise remain as the deadline looms for Gov. Phil Murphy to sign adult-use cannabis into law, and an apparent stalemate with the legislature remains.
The stalemate began December 18, 2020 when A-21/S-21 passed both the Assembly and the Senate and went to the Governor’s desk to be enacted. The Administration felt that there needed to be tougher penalties for minors who possessed cannabis in a legalized, adult-use environment. The Administration’s point is understandable – like alcohol, it must be clear that cannabis is legal for those 21 years-old and older. It was also made clear that the legalization bills would not be signed until there was a “fix”.
The Legislature’s position coming into the New Year was that so much had been done to get legalization legislation passed, the end of the road should have been at the Governor’s desk. Concerns varied, but the one concern that resonated the loudest concerning juvenile penalties was that it could create a new era of “stop and frisk” in a state with historically high racially disproportionate enforcement.
As we wait for resolution to the adult-use and juvenile penalty bills dilemma, here are the four scenarios of which one will play out:
  • Governor Murphy will not act on S-21/A-21, letting the clock run out whereby statutorily the bills become law 45 days from the time the bills hit the Governor’s desk.
  • Governor Murphy could line-item veto S-21/A-21. The trouble with the line-item veto is language can be removed but not added. The juvenile penalty matter would still have to be addressed via another bill.
  • The Governor could outright veto the legalization legislation. The process would go back to square one – nobody wants that!
  • Governor Murphy signs the legalization legislation as is, the Legislature works on the compromise juvenile bill(s), and the focus turns to finalizing the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (remember, without the CRC there is no regulation and no adult-use market).
This is exactly why your membership in the NJCBA is so important. Through your membership and active voices, we can establish a New Jersey cannabis industry – medical and recreational – that is responsible, sustainable, and profitable.