Assembly speaker promises action soon on weed, minimum wage

It was getaway day for Speaker Craig Coughlin and the audience at the Southern New Jersey Development Council’s Public Policy Breakfast, so the goal was a quick update on the legislative agenda for the remainder of this year and into next. Next on the agenda, two marijuana bills set for committee votes Monday. One is on the expansion of medical marijuana, which he expects to get broad support.

“The adult use marijuana bill will not enjoy that same overwhelming support, I suspect,” said Coughlin. “But the bill goes a long way towards providing an economic path for regular New Jerseyans.”

Including considerations for women, minorities and veterans; micro-licenses for smaller enterprises; expungement for previous small-time weed arrests; municipal opt outs for towns that don’t want to participate; and a 2 percent tax going to towns that do. Also, no home growing, which the industry had fought for in the bill.

“It’s a very complicated bill. The bill ended up being 140 some odd pages because there’s an awful lot to get accomplished. As I talked about today, it’s a path to economic advantage for people. Most importantly it addresses social justice concerns that I think we had to correct in the bill,” Coughlin said.

The other major issue the speaker addressed was the minimum wage bill.

“We’re working through the details. Many of you have approached my staff or me about unique circumstances in regards to certain categories of folks, but at the end of the day we’re going to make sure that the tide will raise everybody’s boat,” he said.

It remains unclear where the speaker stands on the carve outs for teens, agriculture and hospitality workers. This is the best answer we could get out of him.

“Minimum wage is something that I think whose time has come and we’re workinghard  to get that bill in place. I suspect — well, not that I suspect — we are going to roll that out in the very near future,” Coughlin said.

Because, says the speaker, he likes to work collaboratively, and the fact remains, there are two other legs of the three-legged stool to consider. But with few dates left on the legislative calendar, action on most of this agenda will likely have to wait until 2019.