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Senate President Steve Sweeney. Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Another pass at legal weed before November possible, Sweeney says

Senate President: ‘I might’ve underestimated the challenge of getting this passed’

By Nikita Biryukov, March 25 2019 2:28 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney said state lawmakers might make another run at marijuana legalization before November’s elections.

“I might’ve underestimated the challenge of getting this passed. I might’ve underestimated it, but I gotta tell you, we don’t fail,” Sweeney said. “We’re postponing today, but that in no way means that we failed or we’re walking away from it.”

Sweeney has previously said the marijuana bill package would be delayed until after this year’s Assembly elections if lawmakers were unable to push the measure through Monday.

Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the legalization bill’s prime Senate sponsor, said changes would likely be made to the bills before then.

The senators that opposed the measure did so for a fairly-wide range of reasons, but small changes to bills in the package could be enough to secure votes on the legislature’s next pass at marijuana legalization.

Sen. Dawn Addiego, who became a moderate Democrat after defecting from the Republican party earlier this year, said she opposed the legalization package because of how broad the package’s expungement bill was.

The bill would allow expungements for those convicted of possessing up to five pounds of marijuana and of distributing up to one ounce of the same.

Changes there could win much-needed votes in the Senate, though they wouldn’t move hardliners like Sen. Ron Rice.

It’s not clear when Sweeney intends to bring the bill back up for a vote, but he said he intends to do so as soon as it’s clear that he has 21 votes.

“This is an issue that’s not going away, and we made a few mistakes,” Sweeney said. “We’ll fix them. We’ll move forward. We’ll come back. The legalization of adult-use marijuana will get passed in the state of New Jersey, one way or another.”

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