As plans to legalize recreational marijuana seem to have hit a dead end, lawmakers in different New Jersey legislative committees have advanced the expansion of the medical marijuana program, marijuana criminal expungement and marijuana decriminalization bills.
On Monday afternoon (May 20), the Appropriations Committee of the Assembly debated and advanced a decriminalization bill. This bill seeks to make the possession of less than two ounces of cannabis a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine. The same committee also passed a bill to expunge marijuana convictions.
The version of this bill passed by a senate committee didn’t mention decriminalization. The intention was to include this provision at a later stage of the process after the different bills make their way through the different committees just before they are combined into one bill ready for presentation to the entire Assembly or Senate.
The Health and Human Health Services Committee of New Jersey’s senate also passed a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. This bill proposes several changes to the existing law. For example, health professionals would now issue a prescription for medical cannabis for an entire year instead of just 90 days as has been the case under the current law.
The bill also allows patients to buy medical cannabis from any dispensary they choose within the state. Previously, patients could only buy medical marijuana from the dispensary where they were registered as they joined the medical marijuana program.
Patients will also be allowed to buy up to three ounces of medical cannabis at a go. The current law imposes a limit of one ounce, and this forces patients to make several trips to a medical cannabis dispensary to replenish their medical cannabis supply. This bill had earlier on been approved by the Appropriations Committee of the state Assembly.
While medical marijuana advocates see the bill to expand the medical marijuana program as imperfect, they recognize that it is far better than the existing legal framework so they will be happy to see it pass into law.
Patients and advocates were becoming increasingly frustrated by the delay to pass the expansion of the medical marijuana program even if it enjoyed universal support. The delays were intended to build consensus on the legalization of recreational marijuana, but there is a growing resignation to the possibility of putting the matter to a vote next year since lawmakers show no sign of agreeing on how full legalization should be implemented.
Steve Sweeney, the Senate President, also seems resigned to the fact that recreational cannabis is still a long way from being legalized legislatively. He revealed that while the bill to expand the medical marijuana program will soon be passed, he could not say the same for the bill to legalize recreational cannabis.
Nabis Holdings (CSE: NAB) (OTC: INNPF) (FRA: 71P) and MustGrow Biologics Corp. hope that the bills approved by the various committees are cleared by either House quickly so that patients can enjoy better access to medical cannabis.
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