Delays continue in the roll-out of New Jersey’s medical cannabis program expansions, now thanks in part to conflict between Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and state Sen. Steve Sweeney (D), Leafly reports.
Delays are nothing new for New Jersey, who has already seen its medical cannabis infrastructure stalled by political action, primarily by anti-cannabis crusader Chris Christie, who was the sitting governor when New Jersey legalized medical cannabis.
Now, Bill S10 — the medical cannabis expansion bill that awaits further consideration — is being delayed yet again due to conflict between state Sen. Steve Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy, both of whom are Democrats. Gov. Murphy has taken issue with the tax rate set by Bill S10 and it’s speculated that Sen. Sweeney is refusing to cooperate as part of a strategic push for full adult-use legalization, which is expected to be addressed sometime this legislative session.
Notably, despite their disagreements, Gov. Murphy has called for lawmakers to legalize adult-use cannabis since he took office in early 2018.
The roll-out of New Jersey’s medical cannabis expansions has been riddled with issues. Cannabis advocates say the six new dispensary licenses issued in late 2018 all went to well-financed, out-of-state companies and accuse the legislature of not supporting attempts by local communities to participate in the space. Advocates also argue that none of the companies who were awarded licenses have selected retail or production sites yet, indicating further delays.
Action is needed. Medical cannabis is currently retailing for $500 per ounce in New Jersey — way beyond the national average. Additionally, some patients are stuck driving for nearly two hours just to get their medicine. Patients are also still required to re-certify their medical cannabis status every 30-90 days.
The next session of the New Jersey legislature begins January 15. Advocates hope for some sort of progress but, for now, the state’s high prices and difficult access will continue.