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Plans for full marijuana legalization in New Jersey might be stalled, but lawmakers in various committees advanced several reform bills on May 20, 2019, that would decriminalize cannabis possession, expand the state's medical marijuana program, and provide for expedited expungements of past convictions.

After some early confusion over what bills would be on the day's agenda, the Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a decriminalization bill in the afternoon. It would make possession of 2 ounces, or 56.7 grams, or less of cannabis a civil infraction punishable by a $50 fine. The panel also advanced a broad expungement bill.

The Assembly version of the expungement legislation would allow individuals with prior convictions for using, possessing or distributing cannabis to petition the courts to get their records cleared. A version of the expungement legislation that began circulating on May 17, 2019, had decriminalization language attached to it, but the Assembly Judiciary Committee stripped the provision from the bill during its own consideration and pulled the expungement legislation from its agenda entirely.

The Senate version of the expungement legislation, which the chamber's Health and Human Services Committee approved, didn't include a decriminalization provision. Democratic state Sen. Joe Vitale told reporters that the plan was to add the language before the full floor votes, which is expected to happen on May 23, 2019.

Democratic Assembly member Annette Quijano, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said decriminalization would be taken up within the next month, NJ.com's Payton Guion reported. But for the time being, it will be subject to “further internal discussions.”

Separately, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill to expand the state's medical marijuana program. The Assembly Appropriations Committee also cleared that legislation.

Among other changes, the legislation would increase the amount of cannabis a health practitioner could recommend from a 90-day supply to a one-year supply, increase the amount of marijuana a patient could obtain at one time at a dispensary to 3 ounces, or 85 grams, and allow patients to get their cannabis at any dispensary in the state rather than at a single facility where they're registered.

“While the bill's not perfect … this is still light years ahead of our present program, and it's at a time when it's exactly appropriate,” said state Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, the bill's chief sponsor.

The action in the several committees comes days after leading lawmakers said that adult-use legalization would be an issue decided by voters on the 2020 ballot, rather than through the Legislature.

Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney said in mid-May 2019 that his chamber would move forward on expanding New Jersey's medical marijuana program and providing for expungements, but that it wouldn't “pursue the legalization of adult use marijuana at this time.”


Feature image: Lawmakers in New Jersey Assembly and state Senate committees advanced legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, clear criminal records, and change the state's medical cannabis program to allow patients to obtain more of the plant from any dispensary, rather than one outlet where they are registered. (Weedmaps file photo)

 

This article has been republished under a content syndication agreement with Marijuana Moment. Read the original article here.

 

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