New Jersey Likely To Legalize Marijuana In 2018

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Two bills are working their way through the legislative process and the new governor has all but promised to sign one.

A new governor might mean legalized marijuana in New Jersey, and it might even include allowing residents to grow the plant at home.

Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on the issue and has indicated if the legislature can get a bill to his desk, he will be sure to sign it.

A bill coming later this month could soon dominate the cannabis debate in New Jersey and it's not the same one that got attention last year.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, plans to introduce that bill before Feb. 1, with big changes from last year's much-discussed marijuana legalization bill, including letting people grow cannabis at home and the possibility that limited recreational weed sales could begin this year.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, introduced his bill in May and reintroduced it on Thursday.

Scutari's bill would legalize the possession and personal use of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. It also would establish an enforcement agency, along with a licensing system for growers and retailers.

Depending on which bill makes it through to Murphy's desk, New Jersey could have legal access to the drug as early as this year:

[Brendan Neal, Gusciora's chief of staff] mentioned a provision that would allow New Jersey's existing medicinal marijuana providers -- who would not be permitted to sell to the public out of their current stores -- to open a dispensary in a different location and sell recreational pot as soon as 90 days after the bill is signed.

Scutari has voiced support for allowing the medicinal growers and dispensaries to open the industry, but didn't include such a provision in his bill.