Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Monday he wants to tie recreational cannabis legalization to the expansion of the state's medical marijuana program.
That would mean that, despite lawmakers decoupling an omnibus bill that would have dealt with both medicinal and recreational marijuana, lawmakers want the two issues to advance through the statehouse side by side.
“Right now, we’re working amongst ourselves to get two documents, at least, that we can talk about,” Sweeney said, “because I keep reading what people say they’re going to do, or not going to do.”
Sweeney, D-3rd District, said he still wants the Legislature to pass a bill legalizing adult-use marijuana by the end of the summer.
Gov. Phil Murphy initially penciled $60 million into the 2019 budget from the taxation of adult-use marijuana, but budget talks overshadowed and delayed the legalization process and the tax revenue was removed.
The 2019 budget includes $20 million from the expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program, which now has 25,000 patients and just announced it would accept applications for six new medical dispensaries.
Sweeney said he and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, haven’t been in agreement on how to proceed with marijuana; his priority is recreational while Coughlin’s is medicinal. Nevertheless, the two have to move forward together.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District, a key advocate for adult-use cannabis, said the two issues were “inexplicably linked,” and he supports Sweeney’s approach.
“It’s the same product, just for different purposes,” Scutari said.
And although the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Scutari chairs, will be meeting Thursday, marijuana won’t be on the roster.
Hopefully, Scutari said, “August is going to be cannabis month.”