Magic mushrooms added to NJ’s pot decriminalization plan
TRENTON — Hallucinogenic magic mushrooms were added to marijuana decriminalization legislation by a state Senate committee Thursday.
The bill is scheduled to be considered Monday by the full Senate and Assembly, which would vote to send it to Gov. Phil Murphy. However, a related bill legalizing adult-use marijuana and setting up the parameters for the new voter-approved industry wasn’t taken up, as private negotiations continue.
The decriminalization bill applies to possession of up to 6 ounces of marijuana. It was amended to maintain marijuana distribution offenses as crimes, rather than violations subject only to a civil penalty, though a first offense for distribution of 1 ounce of marijuana or less would be subject only to a written warning.
Bill sponsor state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, said she is “not happy with the entirety of the bill” but that it will “send a clear message that New Jersey is beginning to right its wrongs.”
“A policy that quite frankly begins to reverse some of the damage that we have done to constituencies in the state. I’m really proud that this bill is unique and of its kind. New Jersey will be at the forefront of the decriminalization conversation,” Ruiz said.
“This is just a first step,” she said. “We know the facts, we know the data, and we know the damage.”
The bill would drop pending charges in many marijuana-related cases. The latest amendments would drop fewer pending distribution offenses but would begin to drop them for charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance while driving a car. (Note: This article was updated to remove incorrect information that some impaired driving charges would be dropped.)
The changes would also make possession of 1 ounce or less of psilocybin mushrooms, which are more commonly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, a disorderly persons offense or misdemeanor, rather than a third-degree crime.
The amended bill was endorsed 11-0 by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, with one vote to abstain by state Sen. Sam. Thompson, R-Middlesex.
Both the Senate and Assembly had been scheduled to take up the legalization bill Thursday but ultimately did not.
“Negotiations, fine-tuning are still underway on that topic. That bill is being held,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester.
Ruiz said lawmakers “all have to be sure that when we create that next frontier that we have reparations, that we have economic opportunity to take someone from the street corner to the storefront.”
The delay could push back approval of the marijuana legalization bill by a month, unless meetings are added to the Legislature’s calendar.
After Monday’s voting sessions, the Senate and Assembly aren’t due to be back in session until Dec. 7. They’ll have a few days of committee hearings before the next voting sessions on Dec. 17, which are expected to be the last until January.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.