New Jersey’s cannabis standoff • Kentucky governor again urges movement on medical cannabis • Iowa lawmakers call for legalization • & more…

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New Jersey’s cannabis standoff. 

After lawmakers advanced legislation last week to address Governor Phil Murphy’s concerns about the bill passed in December to launch legal adult use cannabis, negotiations abruptly fell through.

On Friday, NJ.com reported that Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the state’s longest and loudest supporter of cannabis law reform in the legislature, said he was striking his name as sponsor of the legislation passed last week.

Now, the ball is in Murphy’s court to sign the December bill. “The original bill is on the Governor’s desk, we hope he signs it,” Jen Sweet, spokesperson for the New Jersey Senate Democrats, told Cannabis Wire on Monday.

Backstory: Cannabis Wire reported in our newsletter early last week that Assembly members Benjie Wimberly and Annette Quijano introduced A 5211, which “updates and clarifies recent legislation passed by both Houses of the Legislature addressing cannabis legalization, and marijuana and hashish decriminalization.” 

On Thursday, the Appropriations Committee released the bill, voting 8-3. Also on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released an identical bill, S3320, passing it 7-3.

The discussion in the Assembly lasted less than 15 minutes. The first comments came from Joe Johnson of ACLU-NJ, who began by saying, “I had prepared remarks this morning to express our opposition to the scheme on how to deal with minors caught with possession of cannabis. Fortunately, it seems that the amendments that we were just given access to kind of clear up a lot of our concerns.”

Johnson continued by emphasizing that legislation should “explicitly include community service alternatives for those with the inability to pay” fines when caught with cannabis. “This very simple provision would avoid individuals from getting swept up into the system just because they were unable to pay a fine,” he said. 

A statement in opposition came from Ray Cantor of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, who expressed concerns about workplace impairment. “We hope that the legislature will take into account that there is a need for additional measures for safety sensitive positions so that our workforce and our public is protected,” he said.

Assembly member Herb Conaway Jr. responded to Cantor, “You have raised this issue in the past. And as I listen, I always think, ‘what are the particular issues related to cannabis that distinguish it from alcohol use?” 

Cantor responded, “I don’t want to take a position on the impacts of having a hangover. But we can’t protect against every situation. But, you know, from our perspective, whether or not you have a foggy mind or hangover I think is significantly or substantially different than whether or not you are impaired on cannabis.” 

Now, the wait begins to see whether the December legislation is signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, so that the state’s adult use industry can be launched.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear calls out medical cannabis in his State of the Commonwealth speech. 

“Speaking of laws that unduly restrict us from growth and innovation, it is time to legalize medical marijuana, pass sports betting and save historic horse racing,” Beshear said on Thursday.

Kentucky lawmakers have already introduced HB 136 and SB 92, bills that would legalize and regulate medical cannabis. 

As Cannabis Wire has reported, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have both also talked about cannabis alongside betting this year. 

During his State of the State address last Wednesday, for example, Lamont said that he looks forward to “working with our neighboring states” and tribal leaders to modernize gaming, internet betting, and legalized cannabis. 

Iowa lawmakers call for cannabis legalization.

State Senator Joe Bolkcom organized a group of dozens of state and local lawmakers and officials who came out this week in support of cannabis reforms.   

“It’s time to reform Iowa’s outdated marijuana laws,” said Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague. “Laws that regulate the adult use of marijuana in a way similar to Iowa’s alcohol laws will make our state a better, freer, more just place to live.”

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