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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy, legislative leaders in talks on expungement

Lawmakers considering decriminalizing marijuana as a stop gap

By Nikita Biryukov, November 21 2019 12:15 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s in talks with legislative leadership over the future of an expungement bill that has been in limbo for months.

“Without getting into details on that, we are very seriously looking at that and talking to legislative leadership,” Murphy said.

With lawmakers taking marijuana to the 2020 ballot, the expungement bill, primarily meant to clear the criminal records of low-level marijuana offenders, has been put into a sort of limbo.

Passing the measure would chaffe now given that those marijuana offenses are still on the books.

Lawmakers are considering decriminalizing marijuana as a stop gap while they wait for next year’s legalization vote, though it’s not yet clear whether the governor stands on such a move.

Murphy has previously opposed decriminalization over fears that it would create open pasture for the state’s drug dealers.

At the same time, the governor has always cited social justice as the main driver behind his desire to legalize marijuana. Marijuana arrests will continue at least until the issue goes to the polls in 2020. 

“On marijuana, on one level, I’m happy that we finally have a clear path toward legalization of adult use,” he said. “I’m disappointed it’s not going to happen sooner because the status quo is unacceptable.”

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