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Disagreement In State Legislature Holding Up Plans To Legalize Recreational Marijuana In New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) -- Plans to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey could be going up in smoke after a deal at the state house fell through. There's been a disagreement among Democrats, so what comes next?

"Right now, the governor can either sign or veto both bills. He can sign one, he can veto the other," said Chris Goldstein with The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

One bill addresses the legal sale of marijuana, the other, the decriminalization of it.

New Jersey residents overwhelmingly voted yes to legalize recreational weed in the Garden State.

A full floor vote was set for Monday but that's no longer happening.

"Stopping marijuana arrests is a paramount importance to justice, and it is really the key to the racial justice component of marijuana legalization. If we don't stop arrests we are not delivering on any justice whatsoever," Goldstein said.

Bill S33-20, also known as the Cleanup Bill, was meant to add penalties for underage use of marijuana. But marijuana advocates with NORML say those penalties are way too harsh, and other senators objected to it.

"The penalties for under 21 would have been a possible driver's license suspension and possible referral into a drug treatment program. We just don't think these things are necessary in a state for that age group, or really any age group at all," Goldstein said.

As it stands, the current legalization and decriminalization bill that's on Gov. Phil Murphy's desk would legalize marijuana use for people over the age of 21.

An administration source with the governor's office says "the governor has not changed his position and continues to negotiate in good faith with the legislature."

"There's no deadline here, they can continue fighting. But while they fight over this a hundred people get arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey every day," Goldstein said.

Advocates are hoping that changes sooner rather than later, but say, so far, there hasn't been much transparency.

"There have been a lot of last-minute changes to the legislation, a lot of back room sort of discussions that the public has no chance to weigh in on," Goldstein said.


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