Sweeney Wants to Move Ahead With Medical Marijuana Bill, Expungement – But No Legalization

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) is convening a press conference right now announcing a separation of the medical marijuana bill, according to Dan Munoz of NJBIZ.

Sweeney says the votes aren’t there for adult-use legalization.

He wants to put it on referendum for 2020.

Tweeted Munoz:

“Sen. Sweeney announces the state will move ahead with the medical marijuana bill by itself, following pressure yesterday from GOP lawmakers.”

Sweeney tweeted:

“We will move forward with the expansion of our medical cannabis program as well as the progressive social justice reforms in the expungement legislation. We will not, however, pursue the legalization of adult use marijuana at this time.”

He released the following statement:

Senate President Steve Sweeney announced today that he will move forward with legislation to expand the state’s medical marijuana program and with the expungement bill.

Senator Sweeney said that efforts to legalize adult use marijuana won’t be realized at this time and that he wants to act now to expand the medical cannabis program and achieve progress on social justice reforms with legislation to revise procedures and eligibility for the expungement of criminal records.

“Adult use marijuana will be legalized in New Jersey but it won’t happen now,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “It would have been best to move the adult use and medical expansion bills at the same time, but it is wrong to hold the medical and expungements bills hostage. We want to move forward to help transform the state’s medical marijuana program and to achieve the progressive reforms for social justice.”

Senator Sweeney said that he will likely seek voter approval for the legalization of recreational marijuana with a ballot referendum in 2020.

Senator Sweeney also said that he is working with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and the sponsors of the medical cannabis and expungement bills to update the legislation.

The medical marijuana bill, S-10, is sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Nick Scutari. The legislation would allow medical use for a more extensive list of diagnosed conditions, increase the number of dispensaries, expand the list of professionals who can authorize patient use, increase access to caregivers and the amount of cannabis that patients could obtain. The legislation will also phase-out the tax on medical cannabis.

“This will transform the way New Jersey manages medical marijuana in the state. This bill will help those in need by removing barriers to access for patients, it gives doctors and other caregivers the ability to make use of the medicinal qualities of cannabis and it lowers the costs of these important products,” said Senator Sweeney. “The best way to make the medical cannabis program fully effective is through legislation.”

The bill includes the regulatory oversight contained in the adult use legalization legislation, providing the structure and organization to enhance the effectiveness of the medical program.

The bill allows any physician, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and other health care providers, to prescribe cannabis for a wider range of conditions. It would also expand access to designated caregivers, including those in hospitals or nursing homes, substantially increase the amount patients could obtain, allow terminally ill patients unlimited amounts and provide new legal protections for participants.

The expungement bill, S-3205, sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate President Sweeney would reform the process for the expungement of criminal records. The bill would expand the categories of people eligible for expungement, and the expungement request could proceed once the individual had met certain time period requirements.

The legislation would establish a “clean slate” expungement which would allow someone ineligible under the new provisions to apply for expungement. The individual would be eligible ten years from the date they were released, completed probation or completed parole, whichever came last.

The measure would allow for the expungement of controlled dangerous substance convictions of the third or fourth degree. This would allow all convictions for controlled dangerous substance crimes to be treated the same as other crimes and offenses in terms of eligibility for expungement.

Speaker Coughlin released a statement afterwards, saying he’s ‘disappointed’ the legalization bill won’t move forward, but agreed with Sweeney, and will move the medical and expungement bills.

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