The New Jersey Assembly canceled a vote on a bill to decriminalize marijuana Monday after a Senate Amendment included a provision that also decreased the penalties for psilocybin, or magic mushrooms.
The debate over the marijuana decriminalization bill comes after a decisive vote by New Jersey residents in favor of legalizing marijuana. Earlier this month, 67 percent of voters voted to legalize marijuana, and the state will permit recreational possession and use of marijuana in 2021. In the meantime, however, possession and use of marijuana is still a criminal offense. The proposed bill would allow for possession of up to six ounces of marijuana without facing a penalty.
The New Jersey Senate then added a controversial amendment that would reduce the penalties for possession of magic mushrooms. The amendment, if passed into law, would make possession of up to one ounce of mushrooms a disorderly persons offense, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Critics of the amendment, such as New Jersey Assemblyman Jamel Holley, called the amendment a “poison pill” that would ruin the marijuana decriminalization bill’s chance of passing. But supporters of the amendment note that the current law allows for up to a prison sentence of five years for possession of just one ounce of mushrooms. The amendment would not decriminalize possession of mushrooms but instead make the offense less serious and the sentence less harsh.
Regardless of what happens with the decriminalization bill, the New Jersey legislature must work to pass laws outlining the regulations of the marijuana industry before the voter referendum goes into effect on January 1, 2021. Issues include the licensing of businesses that sell marijuana, sales taxes on marijuana and apportionment of those sales taxes.