Gov. Phil Murphy doesn’t agree with Senate President Steve Sweeney calling a medical marijuana expansion bill working its way through the legislature a backdoor method of legalizing recreational pot.
“I haven’t seen that the senate president made that statement, and I don’t view it that way … we don’t have the final bill yet, so I’ll leave that over to the side,” Murphy said at a press conference Monday.
After the Senate passed the measure last week, Sweeney told reporters that the bill followed the legalization model used in California.
Lawmakers there made vastly expanded their medical marijuana program before shooting for legalization.
“I’ve said this over and over, this is a backdoor way of legalizing marijuana,” Sweeney said of the bill last week.
Murphy’s statements in response to reporters’ questions on the matter coincided with an announcement that his administration was seeking to greatly expand the number of marijuana cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries in the state.
The governor said the Department of Health is seeking to add 24 growers, 30 manufacturers and 54 dispensaries in the state.
Those additions would need to be approved in a process that the governor’s office expects would take one or two months.
The proposal is may become a hurdle in the medical marijuana bill’s progress as it calls for a much larger number of dispensaries than the bill provides for.
Murphy has declined to say whether he would sign the bill should it arrive at his desk and did so again Monday, citing an oft-ignored policy of not discussing action on pending legislation.
Still, Murphy Press Secretary Alyana Alfaro Post said the governor’s office is in constant contact with the governor’s legislative counterparts about the measure.
Though it has previously approved the bill, the Assembly is set to hold another vote on it on June 10, as the Senate passed an amended the bill after it passed in the legislature’s lower chamber.
Both chambers of the legislature are in session then, so it’s possible lawmakers will send another version of the bill to Murphy’s desk next Monday.
“This is addressing accessibility and supply for patients who are desperately in need of help,” Murphy said. “That’s what this is all about, at least on our side.”