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Yesterday was supposed to be a big marijuana day in Trenton. It wasn’t. Legalization is headed to the ballot next year. Decriminalization is off the table for now.
Here’s a smattering of reaction from an underwhelming day when only one cannabis bill inched forward, A10, to improve NJ’s ghastly medical cannabis program. Assemblyman Jamel Holley invited InsiderNJ to press the YES button. (see pic)
“It’s no secret that the Senate President (Steve Sweeney) stopped pushing for (legalization) when his buddy Phillip Norcross became a lobbyist for Acreage Holdings,” A demoralized State Street stalwart told InsiderNJ.
(Phillip Norcross’ firm Optimus Partners wields its considerable clout to successfully preserve the medical marijuana cartel model we’re currently living in.)
On kicking the can to voters
“The problem with going to the ballot in NJ is we don’t have initiative and referendum,” Bill Caruso told InsiderNJ. “Instead, the ballot initiative to amend the constitution will not include clarity on protections for children, racial and social justice provisions, tax rate, scope of licensure provisions, municipal oversight, etc. And, the lack of these details leave too many open questions for voters making passage dubious. This is a bad idea.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney knows legalizing cannabis via constitutional referendum is a bad idea. A state senator from Colorado warned as much when a delegation of NJ pols when out went to investigate Colorado’s cannabis market. Sweeney was there. So was I. So let’s roll back those transcripts, shall we?
“Our constitutional amendments are too detailed and inflexible,” Colorado State Sen. Pat Steadman warned. “It would be much preferable to address this issue through statute. I would eliminate most of what’s in our constitution and move it all to statute, retaining only the most basic concepts of a right to use, possess, and cultivate and directions to the legislature for creating a regulatory framework for businesses in this industry.”
Un-strategic Activism? Muddled messaging?
“It’s sad” longtime pot advocate Tracy McHugh reflected to InsiderNJ, assessing our own role in the current stalemate. “It went from us being together in battle to….. not. We used to be in this together and this time we’ve had a lot of activists go their own way.”
Legalization tanked. Baby steps forward on medical.
“This bill (A10, a downpayment on improving NJ’s medical cannabis program) was not perfect,” Scott Rudder of the NJ CannaBusiness Association told InsiderNJ. “I have some concerns, but I’d rather this process move forward so we can keep the focus on patients’ needs. We have to keep the process moving forward because the benefits to patients are tremendous.”
Assemblyman Jamel Holley being diplomatic and pragmatic.
“My priority has always been medical patients and individuals hardest hit by the war of drugs,” Assemblyman Jamel Holley told InsiderNJ. “We have more issues to work out but I’m glad to see medical (legislation) move forward.”
“We prioritized patients,” Assemblyman Joe Danielsen said from the Assembly floor. “We prioritized science, business, and social justice. We have the most progressive, innovative medical marijuana bill in the country, a job creating bill that puts patients first.”
Patient advocate rebuttal?
“OMG NJ does not have the most progressive, innovative medical marijuana program in the country.” Notorious pothead Chris Goldstein tweeted. “they basically just established the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission – language cut and pasted from the full legalization bill they killed off, and took medical program oversight away from Department of Health. Dunno on all that justice fluff tho…”
Unfortunately, today’s bill does not permit home cultivation and places a 23-grower limit in New Jersey. That felt kinda stingy so we reached out to an expert.
Shaleen Title sits on the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission.
“Massachusetts has home grow, no statewide cap, and restrictions on municipal bans and caps, and look at our market. What we have should be the bare minimum,” Commissioner Title replied.
Jay Lassiter is an unrepentant pot-smoking atheist queer with strong opinions about everything.