New Jersey lawmakers in various committees approved several cannabis-related reform bills, allowing these proposed legislative measures to advance to the next stage. These bills would expand the states medical cannabis program, decriminalize marijuana possession, and provide for the expedited expungement of past cannabis-related convictions.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the decriminalization bill, which would make the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis a mere civil infraction. Those caught with up to this much amount of the drug would be fined $50.
The panel also advanced the broad expungement bill, which would allow individuals with past convictions for possessing, using, or distributing marijuana to petition the courts to clear their records.
A version of the expungement bill that was circulated earlier contained a decriminalization language, but the Assembly Judiciary Committee took out this provision during its own consideration and pulled the bill entirely from its agenda.
The Senate version of the expungement bill, which was approved by the chamber’s Health and Human Services Committee, did not include a provision on decriminalization. However, Sen. Joe Vitale told reporters that they are planning to add a decriminalization language before the full floor votes.
Decriminalization in the expungement legislation will be subject to further internal discussions.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health and Human Services separately approved a bill to expand New Jersey’s medical cannabis program. The vote was unanimous. The Assembly Appropriations Committee also cleared the expansion bill.
The medical cannabis program expansion legislation would increase the allowed amount of medical cannabis that a health practitioner can recommend. From being able to recommend only a 90-day supply, health practitioners will now be allowed to prescribe a one-year supply of the drug.
It will also increase the amount of pot that a patient is allowed to purchase at a dispensary at one time. Patients will now be able to obtain three ounces of medical cannabis from any dispensary within the state, instead of just a single facility where they are registered.
These actions and developments in the several committees come days after the state’s lawmakers said that legalization of adult-use cannabis would be an issue that voters will get to decide on in 2020. This means that recreational cannabis legalization will depend on the 2020 ballot and not on the legislature.