TRENTON, NJ - The historic Marijuana Legalization Act (S-2703), sponsored by Linden-based Senator Nicholas Scutari, was heard in Trenton on Monday and cleared both committees during a joint meeting.
The joint meeting featured a twenty-six member panel, which was made up of the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and was the largest to date.
Senator Nicholas Scutari testified before the Senate Budget Committee, where he spoke in support of the bill sponsored by him and Senate President Steve Sweeney (S-2703) which legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for people age 21 and over, as well as establish a Division of Marijuana Enforcement and licensing structure.
"This will stimulate the economy of New Jersey like nothing ever has before," said Scutari. "We’re on the precipice of a historic event here, starting something and creating jobs like no other Legislature has done before. We have that opportunity."
Below see the video with Senator Scutari's testimony at the beginning of the committee meeting.
Scutari also mentioned his thoughts on prohibition. He stated the prohibition of marijuana started intentionally as a way to target minorities, he added, before voting yes on his bill.
The legalization bill was approved 7-4 with two abstentions by members of the Senate Budget committee and 7-2 with one abstention by those on the Assembly Appropriations committee.
Once both houses voted for the bills approval to move past their committees, Scutari made comments reflecting on the vote.
“I thank you for your open-mindedness,” Scutari said. “Even those who voted no, I think I can get you there.”
“The racial disparity is remarkable, just unbelievable,” said the Senator. “Marijuana is a drug but it is a non-addictive drug,” he explained.
The legislative committees also approved measures to expand the state's medical marijuana program and overhaul the rules for expungement of drug-related and other criminal offenses.