New Jersey lawmakers will not vote on a proposal to legalize recreation marijuana before the end of the year confirmed the state’s top legislator.
The bill was not on the docket Monday as the state Legislature gathers for its final voting sessions of 2018, said State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester.
Murphy met with Democratic leaders of the Legislature last Thursday to discuss that bill and more. Hoping to reach a compromise, both parties said the sit-down was positive, even though Murphy and top Democratic lawmakers have disagreed in the past. Although Sweeney said they made progress, no deal was reached.
He said, “We had our first significant conversation today on it, I wouldn’t classify anything today as negative. We had a pretty healthy conversation.”
Legalization has been making headlines in NJ- racing to reach a vote by the end of 2018. However, Murphy says he does not have a timeline on when that will be.
According to Sweeney and Coughlin, the meeting with Murphy mainly focused on a proposal to hike the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. “The minimum wage piece, I’m optimistic about,” Sweeney told reporters. “Hopefully, we’ll get to the same place about marijuana.”
The primary debate is how much the state would tax legal pot. An authoritative source familiar with the talk reported that Murphy and lawmakers remained at a disagreement on what the rate should be after Thursday’s meeting. The unidentified source spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk to reporters about the private sessions.
Governor Murphy campaigned on the issue, showing his support of legalizing marijuana to improve social justice in New Jersey and raise tax revenue. Coughlin and Sweeney are also in favor of legal cannabis.
However, regardless of Murphy and Sweeney being in favor, they still have not yet reached an agreement on final details. For the measure to become a law, both houses of the Democrat-controlled Legislature need to pass the bill along with Murphy’s signature.
A marijuana bill passed out of a joint state Senate and Assembly committee in November, following months of disagreements and arguments among lawmakers.
New Jersey’s neighboring state New York, is pushing hard to legalize recreational marijuana in 2019, a decision that could bring more than $1.7 billion in annual sales.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, claims marijuana will be legal within the first 100 days of his term.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday he is not worried about New York’s upcoming strive to bring legal weed to the State, and believes is very unlikely that New York will legalize marijuana before New Jersey.
“I still believe that New Jersey has the advantage when it comes to who’s going to come online first,” said Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.
Daniel McKillop, an attorney with Scarinci Hollenbeck who is advising clients in the cannabis space, argued earlier this year, “New York getting into the driver seat on this would pull away from the benefits that New Jersey would be able to realize. There will be a big detriment to the state that finishes second.”
Lawmakers are set to return to Trenton in January with their eyes set on legal weed. It remains to be seen if New York’s push will ignite a vote.
New Jersey is a state that has been plagued with drug addiction and abuse. Opponents of the bill have concerns that the drug could lead other more serious drugs. New Jersey addiction treatment centers have been fighting the opioid crisis in there state and many agree that marijuana was the drug most addicts used first.