Insider NJ’s Weed War Room: The Battle For Marijuana Legalization (Updated 12/16/2019)

12/16/2019: The Assembly and Senate passed a resolution for a constitutional amendment to legalize adult-use cannabis, to be put on the ballot to the voters next year. Read more articles here.

March 25: 7:52PM: A special edition of Insider NJ’s Who’s Up And Who’s Down

5:03PM: Insider NJ reporter Fred Snowflack writes on Governor Murphy, pot, and the ‘art of sounding upbeat‘.

4:23PM: Praising Senate President Sweeney’s efforts, Governor Murphy told him ‘thanks, man‘.

4:17PM: Governor Murphy said ‘the facts are on our side’, noting his disappointment in the stalling of marijuana legalization legislation, as he ticked off a list of stats.  “Justice delayed’ won’t be ‘justice denied’, he said, as he gave the floor to Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin.

4:15PM: Legalization opponent Senator Rice put out a statement saying ‘the public has not properly been educated’.

4:02PM: A would-be long day at the Statehouse turns into a short one, with regards to the marijuana legalization effort, writes Insider NJ reporter Fred Snowflack.

4:01PM: Insider NJ columnist Jay Lassiter writes that in 12 months, recreational marijuana will be ‘so easy to pass‘ during a presidential election year.

3:58PM: Watch NJTV’s live stream of Governor Murphy’s press conference addressing the marijuana legalization vote cancellation:

3:29PM: The death of the marijuana legalization bill today only delays the inevitable, according to many insiders, and ultimately will get passed – the only question is how, and by whom – Senate President Sweeney or Governor Murphy?

3:25PM: Asked why he didn’t post the bills for a vote in the Assembly to put pressure on the Senate, Coughlin said he worked collectively with the Senate President and Governor – ‘we were in this together’, and made the decision to ‘fall back, we will regroup’ and ‘come up with a strategy that will achieve what we set out to do’.  He said its ‘way too early’ to discuss when a vote may be held.  Asked if he thought the Senate President’s out-of-state absence over the weekend may hurt the bills’ chances, he said ‘no’, adding that ‘I can’t tell you how many times I spoke to the Senate President over the past week’.

3:18PM: Speaker Coughlin said that ‘over the last few years’ the sponsors of the bills have ‘worked tirelessly’, and that the Governor and Senate President were ‘true partners’ in the effort.  Calling them ‘good bills’, Coughlin said he’s proud of the effort and that ‘we’ll continue to work’ to make sure they get over the line.  Assembly Majority Leader Greenwald echoed Coughlin’s statements. ‘This was not an easy issue’, he said.  “We’re very close’, he added.  Sponsor Assemblyman Holley said ‘while we missed the mark today, I’m very proud of the momentum we’re going and headed to moving forward’.  Holley praised the press for ‘understanding the complexity’ of the three bills and in ‘respecting our privacy as it relates to what we say and what we cant’ and the ‘difficulty in working with so many different members in trying to get them over the hump to a yes vote’. Holley added that ‘we’re going to move forward and keep up the good fight’.

3:13PM: Senator Kip Bateman put out a statement on his reluctance to support marijuana legalization efforts today, saying there were ‘too many unresolved questions’ and that while he believes there is bipartisan support for medical marijuana expansion and decriminalization, ‘unfortunately, we were presented an all or nothing proposition on some poorly structured bills, which doomed the potential for achieving significant marijuana reform from the start.

3:03PM: Watch the Assembly’s post-pot effort presser via NJTV’s live stream:


2:15PM:  Senate President Sweeney thanked Governor Murphy for a ‘full-press effort’ and says ‘we made a few mistakes, we’ll fix them, we’ll move forward, and we’ll come back’, adding that adult-use marijuana legalization will get passed at some point.  Senator Scutari said ‘we’re going to continue to make improvements’.  Sweeney said ‘the bill didn’t fail’ and they’ll ‘work to get more votes’ and that he ‘may have underestimated the challenge in getting this passed’, adding that ‘anyone who thinks this is dead is wrong’.   Asked what the hurdle is, Scutari said ‘getting 21 votes’ and ‘when we get the votes, Senate President will put it back up’.  Sweeney said that ‘there are some people who are just philosophically opposed’, referencing Senators Rice and Madden.  ‘With anything hard and important to do, sometimes it takes two or three times to get it done, and we will’, Sweeney added, saying a vote could be held sooner than November.

2:11PM: Watch NJTV’s live stream of the post-marijuana legalization effort press conference:

1:55PM: Insider NJ columnist Carl Golden’s writes about the post-pot fallout for Governor Murphy, and that the ’15 months Murphy’s been in office have been marked by the Senate President’s outmaneuvering the governor, playing three-dimensional political chess while Murphy is pondering a one-dimensional checkerboard’.

1:11PM: Speaker Coughlin says that despite the legalization bill not advancing today, its ‘still an historic day’ and that the state ‘moved closer to the goal than ever before‘ while reiterating his commitment to enacting the legislation.

12:54PM: A source says post-pot flop, Governor Murphy needs to bring in a ‘Mariano’, saying ‘for a guy with such good policy positions, he sucks at making sausage’.

12:42PM: Senate President Sweeney says the legalization bill won’t advance today, but that ‘this fight is not over’ and that he remains committed to its passage.

12:38PM: As Senate Dems caucus, one source says ‘people are counting heads (votes) before they officially start counting heads’.

12:14PM: Senator Paul Sarlo, believed to be a no vote, says he ‘hasn’t changed’ his mind on marijuana legalization.

11:44AM: Senator Codey is a hard no heading into caucus, according to sources in the administration and Senate, as one source points out ‘Codey needs [legalization opponent Senator] Rice more than Murphy for Essex politics’.

11:20AM: The Senate is in caucus ahead of the scheduled 12pm voting session.

10:42AM: A source remarks that ‘I don’t recall ever seeing when a Governor and senate President of the same party couldn’t get to 21 when they’re at 18 or better’ as it continues to look grim for the legalization effort; the source added ‘if that holds, it says something. And I’m not sure how much it has to do with marijuana’.

10:11AM: Governor Murphy makes a late case to political ally Senator Dick Codey, who’s opposed to legalization, in a late game effort to roust up two more votes to get to 21.  It’s a late burst of life for the legalization effort – perhaps – but as one source points out, ‘after Murphy threw Pete under the bus, Murphy does not have a lot of juice with Codey’, referring to former Murphy COS Pete Cammarano.

9:40AM: The late front office conversations center around several GOP Senators, as Governor Murphy makes a last-minute case for legalization.

9:20AM: The conversation heading into caucus: to post, or not to post…

9:16AM: Marijuana legalization is stuck in the Senate this morning, unable to surpass nineteen votes (at most), according to a source.

9:00AM: Recreational marijuana legislation, medical marijuana reform, and expungement legislation is up for a vote today in the Senate and Assembly.  Follow Insider NJ’s ‘Weed War Room’ throughout the morning for regular updates, and as a reference for the events over the past week.

The Governor’s Office worked to whip votes over the weekend, as Governor Murphy (who had been burning up the phones from last Monday on) had repeatedly said all throughout last week that it would be a ‘very close‘ vote (see the timeline below).

As Friday approached, it looked grim in the Senate, which had been four votes short going back to last Tuesday.  The Assembly votes are intact, somewhere in the range of 41 to 43, according to sources.  By Sunday night, there was little movement towards the needed twenty-one votes in the Senate, with sources putting the number at seventeen or eighteen, depending on who you asked.  As time ticks down towards the noon voting session, there was still hope for movement this morning and during the final Senate caucus scheduled before the vote.

As of 9am this morning, the Senate seems stuck at 19, making it possible that the legalization bill could be pulled from the agenda, as allies began bracing for defeat.

Be sure to read Insider NJ’s own Jay Lassiter’s columns on the subject:

Here’s what happened over the past week in the legalization battle:

See the bill here:

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3 responses to “Insider NJ’s Weed War Room: The Battle For Marijuana Legalization (Updated 12/16/2019)”

  1. Only 1 statistic matters; the majority of the citizens of NJ want this to happen. If this bill dies, I hope everyone remembers the ones responsible come election day. Their job is to enact the will of the People and they’re failing at that duty.

  2. I second what slugDC said this is what the people want!!!! I think there will be a lot less DUI’s.I also hope that people will remember WHO doesn’t want this come election day!!! I also hope that Gov.murphy will take more action on this matter like Executive ACTION on this matter !!!!!!!

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