TRENTON – The vote for recreational, or “adult use” marijuana has taken center stage but the medicinal marijuana movement and expungement of records might have been hamstrung by it.
A vote was planned for a package of bills that would legalize adult use marijuana, expunge records of people charged with possession of up to 5 pounds, and expand medicinal marijuana use.
However, when Democrat leaders were trying to find out how much support there was, they came up short on definite “yes” votes. Senate President Steve Sweeney said during a press conference that they decided not to put it up to vote because it would be defeated. So instead they pushed “pause” on it, so they can work to get more support so they know it will pass. He also noted that if it was on the ballot in November, it wouldn’t do well because it’s not a presidential election and not as many people would vote.
However, some people feel that by tying expungement and medical marijuana to the recreational one, it stopped two common sense bills from progressing.
The family of Jake “The Tank” Honig put out a video plea to lawmakers to separate the medicinal marijuana expansion from the recreational. Jake, 7, passed away last year after five years of dealing with cancer.
“The only medication he was on was medical marijuana,” his father Mike said. When he was on it, it alleviated all of his symptoms. But the state only allows 2 ounces for someone his age.
“Somehow medical marijuana got all tied in with recreational. And because of that, we’re putting patients in New Jersey behind pleasure seekers. We’re putting our own personal agenda ahead of the terminally ill child. We ask that you untie medical marijuana from recreational…Everybody can agree, that a patient, especially a child, deserves the medication they need to be comfortable,” he said.
The bill is called the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.
Another bill is expungement, which would help people who have minor offenses have a more productive future. Sen. Robert Singer (R-30th) told a group at an affordable housing assembly in Lakewood recently that “too many young lives have been ruined for having a small amount of marijuana.”
Even if the legislature is torn on recreational marijuana, they should still move forward with the expungement of people’s record, he said. Then, revisit recreational marijuana when there’s more consensus.
State Democrats declined to make a specific reply to requests for comment, but at the same press conference that Sweeney spoke at, there were also several other decision makers including Gov. Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.
When a reporter asked if the bills could be separated, Murphy said it needed to be a full package. If you just decriminalize it, it’s just in hands of bad guys, if you just expunge records, you still get 600 arrests a week of low-grade marijuana charges.
“I know we’re doing the right thing by legalizing adult use marijuana,” Sweeney said. “Too many people are being arrested. Too many people are not getting justice.”