TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New Jersey voters approved a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana. Now it's up to the legislature to make that happen.
Monday, the first part of that passed.
As CBS2's Meg Baker reported Monday, it's a green light for a small amounts of marijuana. The State Senate voted to allow people to hold up to six ounces of pot without facing any penalty as the state awaits full legalization in January. The measure has been held in the Assembly, which does not yet have consensus on the legislation. So decriminalization is now in a holding period until the Assembly passes the measure.
Sources say the bill was not brought up for a vote by the Assembly because they could not come to a consensus regarding downgrading penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms.
The Senate passed the bill 29-4.
"You could do three to five years in state prison for just the possession of one tiny little bit of psilocybin, so this is just going to regrade it," said Sen. Nicholas Scutari.
If marijuana decriminalization is passed in the near future, thousands of records of those with nonviolent marijuana offenses could be expunged -- a major moment for racial justice. The American Civil Liberties Union says Black people are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
"Which will have an immediate impact on the citizens of New Jersey, which will decriminalize current and actually past simple possession charges of marijuana and will dismiss those pending matters," Scutari said.
Recreational marijuana will become fully legal Jan. 1, but that doesn't mean you will be able to purchase it right away. A second bill will set up rules and regulations for the industry.
Industry expert Mike McQueeny said legislators can't agree on taxation.
McQueeny said many saw legalization just as "a tool to fill in some budget holes. Now that comes up in conflict with advocates who are saying we need more money, revenue, grants, more like that, coming to social justice, social equity applicants."
Suppliers also need about three months to grow, and another for testing and packaging.
"Still have to build out your, your expansion facilities. We still have to get all of that, you know, legal work and approvals locally for our expansion," said Shaya Brodchandel, CEO of Harmony Dispensary.
Brodchandel said realistically it would take more than six months for any dispensary to be able to supply recreational marijuana beyond their current medical patients.
A vote on the rules and regulations regarding the industry is not expected until the end of the year.
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