New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is planning to put a recreational cannabis legalization question on 2020 general election ballots after proponent lawmakers couldn’t get enough votes to pass the measure legislatively, according to a Politico report.
“The votes aren’t there. I’m disappointed. The 2020 general election, I think, will be successful, and we will move forward with adult use.” – Sweeney, at a press conference, via Politico
During his remarks, Sweeney said that while Gov. Phil Murphy tried to get the bill passed, he “didn’t listen to the advice that legislators gave him” on the legalization issue. Sweeney suggested that Murphy’s decision to unilaterally expand the state’s medical cannabis regime hampered his ability to sway opposition votes.
Murphy, at an unrelated press conference, rejected that premise.
“I reject being blamed for trying to help citizens out who have nowhere else to turn, whose lives are at stake or quality of life is a stake,” he said during the presser. “I wouldn’t call that blame. This is my responsibility as governor.”
The Democratic governor did praise Sweeney for his support of an expungement bill for low-level cannabis charges, which Murphy said he is open to signing. The expungement legislation would allow offenders 10 years removed from their most recent conviction, fine, or successful complete of parole or probation, a “clean slate.” However, Murphy said he was concerned that the bill expunges charges for crimes that a person could still be arrested for under the state’s current laws.
Lawmakers are also considering the addition of language from the legalization bill allowing individuals convicted of possessing up to five pounds to expunge their records as well but Sweeney believes those limits are too high.
It’s unclear whether the legislature plans to take up the expungement bills before the session concludes.
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