Legislature Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill without Social Justice Priority

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Scutari

The state Senate today passed a weak-kneed, big business-centric, money-grabbing measure otherwise known as Senate Bill No. 21, which ostensibly seeks to fulfill the will of New Jersey voters to enable the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey.

Voters approved the legalization of marijuana with 67% of the vote on Nov. 3rd.

Today, the senate passed the bill by a vote of 23-17.

The bill, as amended, titled the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act,” enables the development, regulation, and enforcement of activities associated with the personal use of products that contain useable cannabis or cannabis resin (the terms provided to distinguish the legalized products from unlawful marijuana or hashish)  by persons 21 years of age or older.

“I’m ready to move on with the rest of my life,” said state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22), pictured above, the bill’s primary sponsor, shortly before the senate voted, and shortly before he suffered a public meltdown.

The Assembly voted in favor of its version of the same bill (49-24, with six abstentions) earlier this afternoon.

Republicans – including battleground state Senator Kip Bateman (R-16) and state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-

Sarlo
Senator Sarlo (pictured) and Senator Rice were the two Democrats who joined the GOP to oppose the bill.

36) and Senator Ron Rice (D-28) – resisted.

“This will just embolden the black market, because the black market will be at a lower price,” state Senator Steve Oroho (R-24) said in opposition.

“Quite frankly I believe this legislature should be ashamed of itself,” said Senator Mike Testa (R-1). “The tax structure on legalized marijuana is so outrageous, the black market will have a field day. …Even worse, the bill fails to address the myriad of issues raised by our businesses and hospitals [when workers test positive for legalized marijuana]. …Here we are turning our backs on employers. This is a very real problem that we are failing to address.”

“This is a sad day,” said Senator Bob Singer (R-30), who said he fears residents in surrounding states where marijuana is not legal flocking to the shore to get high. “This is going to be a nightmare. …I am so disappointed that we think this is a positive thing. They held us hostage because they wanted to legalize it. They wanted the money. Money rules in this state.”

Decriminalization advocate state Senator Ronald L. Rice joined forces with the GOP.

“Senator Scutari never intended to address social justice issues,” said Rice. “I’m not going to support the bill.

“We still need social justice in this state,” added Rice, whom Scutari threatened earlier this year by removing his jacket in the senate caucus room when the veteran senator sought decriminalization ahead of the referendum election.

Losing his cool, falling apart in public, Scutari today shrieked during the senate session, attacking Rice, and prompting Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) to intervene.

“Senator Rice, where have you been for all these years?” Scutari screamed.

“I’m not going to allow that,” Sweeney said.

The legislation does dedicate 70 percent of the sales tax revenue and 100 percent of the “Social Equity Excise Fees” on cultivators to aid “impact zones,” the communities hurt most by the drug laws. The remaining 30 percent of the sales tax revenue would fund the operations of the Regulatory Commission and support state, county and municipal law enforcement in training and equipment for Drug Recognition Experts.

“Hopefully, we’re going to get social justice and economic justice,” said Rice, for whom the additions were not enough.

“The weakest point of this bill is social justice,” said state Senator Nia Gill (D-34). “The black caucus fought to get certain things in; those things were never in the original legislation. The first time you’ll be able to legally purchase marijuana may be 18 months from now.”

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