Medical marijuana bill survives budget day scrum

Lawmakers were finally able to get a medical marijuana bill across the finish line this week after some last-minute haggling with the administration. The bill passed Thursday 31 to 5 in the Senate and 22 to 12 in the Assembly.

The bill allows patients to buy up to 3 ounces of weed, up from the current 2 ounces, and those with a terminal illness have no limits. It moves oversight from the Department of Health to a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission. You only have to register with a doctor once a year, as opposed to quarterly. The sales tax, currently at 6.625%, will phase out gradually by 2022.

There will be 28 new cultivating businesses created over the next 18 months. That’s more than lawmakers wanted, but fewer than the governor wanted. The weed commission will review the numbers to see what’s working and to make sure they’re distributed evenly across the state.

The bill also allows for the creation of “consumption lounges” and home delivery.

The governor said Friday he was pleased with the compromise and that it showed how things can go when the Legislature and the front office work together on an issue.

That’s in contrast to the year-long effort by the administration to get a legal adult use marijuana bill through the Legislature. That effort crashed and burned when the governor and legislative leaders failed to get enough votes to pass the bill.

The fate of legal weed will be left up to voters decide in 2020.

An expungement bill that deals with low-level marijuana arrests passed the Legislature earlier this month and is expected to get the governor’s signature.

For a deeper dive into this story, visit NJ Spotlight where Lilo Stainton and Carly Sitrin have more details on the compromise, including who’s still opposed and what’s next for the program.