March 2021, Issue 1
New Jersey, we finally did it! After years of effort, adult-use recreational marijuana is officially legalized and possession is now decriminalized. This is a monumental accomplishment for social and criminal justice activists who sought to put an end to decades of marijuana-related arrests that disproportionately affected people of color, who were three times as likely to be arrested and imprisoned, with devastating consequences for their personal and professional lives.

Now we look ahead. The Governor's Fiscal Year 2022's is now before the Legislature to be deliberated and determined over the coming months. The Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring that our state's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is robust and beneficial for all New Jerseyans.
Historic Adult-Use Cannabis Reform Bills Signed Into Law 
Acting to implement the public referendum legalizing adult-use marijuana approved by the voters, legislation legalizing and regulating cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older and decriminalizing marijuana and hashish possession was signed into law. Also enacted was legislation clarifying marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.
“This is a historic reform that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy. We can now move forward to correct social injustices at the same time that marijuana is made legal for adults. This will launch a new cannabis industry with the potential to create jobs and generate economic activity at a time when it is desperately needed. The decriminalization law is the most sweeping measure of its kind in the country and is a groundbreaking step in our continued effort to make criminal justice reforms that are fairer and more effective. This will help reduce the racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system.”

- Senate President Steve Sweeney
(D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland)
“This will usher in a new era of social justice by doing away with the failed policy that criminalized the use of marijuana,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari, the leading advocate of legalizing adult-use marijuana in New Jersey over the past decade. “Too many people have been arrested, incarcerated and left with criminal records that disrupt and even destroy their lives. We don’t want the criminal justice system to be an unfair barrier to success. 

"By implementing a regulated system that allows people age 21 and over to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use we will bring marijuana out of the underground market where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades. New Jersey will now be a leader in legalizing a once stigmatized drug in ways that will help the communities hurt the most by the War on Drugs and realize the economic benefits of the new adult-use cannabis market.” 
- Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset)
The signing of S-21 will dedicate 70 percent of the sales tax revenue and 100 percent of the “Social Equity Excise Fees” on cultivators to aid “impact zones,” the communities hurt most by the drug laws. The remaining 30 percent of the sales tax revenue will fund the operations of the Regulatory Commission and support state, county and municipal law enforcement in training and equipment for Drug Recognition Experts.
NJ Youth Council Legislation Advances
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal that would create the New Jersey Legislative Youth Council.
The bill, S-3164, would establish a forum for New Jersey youth to advise the Legislature and all of its committees, commissions,and task-forces on the needs, opinions and welfare of all youth in New Jersey. The Council would identify and implement effective policies, programs and services that the State could enact in the best interests of its young people.
The three legislators in each legislative district would appoint one public member, between the ages 15 to 23 at the time of appointment, to the council based on applications submitted from residents of their respective districts. Legislative members would be required to be appointed to the council within 60 days of the bill’s enactment to fulfill a non-voting supervisory role on the council.
Sarlo Announces Public Hearings on State Budget
Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, announced two public hearings on Governor Phil Murphy’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022. 
“This continues to be a Covid-19 budget that needs to prioritize the health and safety of the state’s residents and address the economic consequences caused by the health crisis. The public’s input is important. We have the advantage of state revenues that are higher than predicted, the use of federal funds and emergency borrowing, but these are only short-term revenue sources that could create a ‘fiscal cliff.’ We need to approach this as a two-year budget so we don’t suffer the consequences of a sudden drop-off in the following year.”
- Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen/Passaic)
The Committee will take oral testimony, by telephone and video, limited to three minutes. Those who want to testify can register online at www.njleg.state.nj.us and click BUDGET PUBLIC HEARINGS: Online Registration. Registrations must be received by 3:00 pm the day before the hearing and you or your organization will be permitted to testify at one Senate public hearing only. 
Sen. Singleton: N.J.’s economic recovery must include Black-owned business | Opinion
Senator Troy Singleton recently published an oped in the Star-Ledger underscoring the need for Black and other minority-owned businesses to be fully involved in the rebuilding of New Jersey's economy.

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