New marijuana legislation no longer a pipe dream

Legalizing the sale of marijuana still lacks the votes needed, so it appears the voters will decide the issue in a Public Ballot question in 2020. Nonetheless the Legislature is now moving forward on expanding Medical Marijuana and on expungement and decriminalization bills. There was torrent of activity on these matters yesterday.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA The Senate health and Assembly appropriations committees both voted yesterday to support a bipartisan proposal (S10/A10) to nearly double the number of permits available for medical marijuana operations to 23, including provisions to encourage small and minority- and women-owned businesses. The legislation would add to a number of regulatory reforms that have grown the program, which now reaches some 46,300 patients.

EXPUNGEMENT The Senate and Assembly committees also passed yesterday an expungement bill (S-3205/A4498 ) which makes it easier for certain offenders to have their criminal records expunged, reducing the current waiting period and opening the process to people who had a greater number of convictions.

DECRIMINALIZATION After some indecision the Assembly yesterday passed a bill (A5325), but the measure has not even been considered in the state Senate. The bill primarily would cease arrests for low-level marijuana crimes. Senate President Sweeney said last week he would not consider decriminalization, and on Monday he said he remained leery of the idea. As this bill also includes some expungement language which differs from the above expungement bill there remains some uncertainty as to which provisions will prevail.

The two bills, plus the decriminalization bill are scheduled to voted on by the full Assembly on Thursday. 

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