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It looked grim for the potheads on Friday, as lawmakers (and allies of the front office) began quietly preparing for defeat. Short of South Jersey getting the capital from a dispensary preferably located in North Jersey on Sunday, the bill to legalize recreational marijuana appeared headed for a Monday derailment.
Quick, what do they all have in common?
They’re from South Jersey.
And they’re all off the bill.
Then there was Senator Kip Bateman’s (R-16) no vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee, signaling his unwillingness to cross the aisle for Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) in a pinch.
Look, maybe there’s a late deal to be had.
But no one was talking about one.
Gov. Phil Murphy talked all week about needing every hand on deck to get pot done.
Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) looked like he had the votes.
But Sweeney didn’t.
Eager as Murphy’s closest allies were to label the senate president the bad guy, however, key allies of the governor, including Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Dick Codey, from the start opposed the recreational legalization of marijuana. The thought among Sweeney types was why should they go to the mat for pot when Murphy couldn’t even corral Codey and Rice?
“I’m going to put my neck on the line for this guy?” a source seethed.
Then there was this recurring theme:
Few really wanted it.
Remember Senator Bob Smith’s (D-17) yes vote in committee?
He didn’t just look reluctant.
It was like watching a man getting dragged by the bulls in Pamplona.
And he made sure to point out that yes then wasn’t necessarily a yes on Monday.
Senator Nellie Pou (D-35) rang the same weary warning bell.
Murphy was supposedly still hitting the phones. But again, short of serious dislodgement, the situation had worsened since here, when it needed to have improved.