Updated (May 30th, 2019):
The New Jersey Senate voted in favor of the bill, with a tally of 33-4. The measure now heads to Governor Murphy’s desk.
2019 has been an up and down year for cannabis law in New Jersey. With lawmakers considering new legislation on both the recreational and medical fronts, cannabis has received a fair amount of attention.
Now, the state Senate is expected to vote today on a new medical marijuana bill. If the bill eventually passes into law, it would significantly expand the size and scope of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
New Jersey’s Proposed Medical Marijuana Expansion
The new bill features several provisions that would all add to a rapid expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program.
For starters, the new bill would scale up the number of medical marijuana providers in the state. Currently, there are six growers/dispensaries licensed in New Jersey. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health reportedly approved six more providers. So far, however, licenses have not yet been granted.
If the state’s medical marijuana expansion bill passes, it would bump up the number of licenses. Specifically, the bill seeks to set a cap of 23 licensed growers in the state. Additionally, the state has set the goal of having 30 percent of all licenses go to women, minority, and veteran-owned marijuana companies.
Along with increasing the number of providers, the new bill would also allow for home deliveries. And it would also make it possible for patients to consume medical marijuana in designated areas inside dispensaries.
Additionally, the bill calls for the creation of a new independent commission to oversee the state’s medical marijuana program. Currently, the state Health Department handles that work.
And finally, the new bill would gradually phase out the state’s 6.625% marijuana sales tax.
What’s Next for the Bill?
Although the Senate is expected to vote on the bill today, it is unclear what the bill’s future might look like. That’s largely because of the uncertainty over whether or not Governor Phil Murphy would sign the bill.
As reported by NJ.com, sources close to the governor said he does not fully support the bill as it is currently written. In particular, he reportedly has issues with the bill’s proposed independent commission and the number of licenses it proposes to issue.
As a result of all this, there is speculation that Gov. Murphy might partially veto the bill if it arrives on his desk. As per NJ.com, the governor may favor a route that would more directly expand access to cannabis under the purview of the governor’s office.
Cannabis Laws in New Jersey
Today’s vote would be the latest step in what has been an active year for cannabis law in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, it looked like a bill to legalize recreational cannabis was picking up momentum. Among other encouraging signs, Gov. Murphy has long advocated for legalization.
But progress stalled in March. That month, lawmakers canceled a vote on legalization because it was unclear if there was enough of a majority for the bill to win.
Then, earlier this month, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said that lawmakers were dropping any attempt to legalize recreational weed. Instead, he said, they would leave it up to voters in 2020.
But in the meantime, pro-cannabis lawmakers said they would focus on efforts to grow the state’s medical marijuana program instead.