SOUTH AMBOY – Last Thursday Steve Sweeney said there’s just one final detail holding up release of the marijuana legalization bill and anticipated the legislation could be made public Monday.

Now Monday’s come and gone, and the bill still isn’t quite ready to be made public.

Asked about the marijuana legislation at an unrelated news conference, Gov. Phil Murphy wouldn’t discuss the bill’s last hang up. He said he shares Sweeney’s interest in seeing it passed this month.

“I think we’re very close. I remain optimistic. I, too, want to see this done, as long as it’s done right, sooner than later,” Murphy said.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said he doesn’t like artificial deadlines but that two weeks from now “seems like a good working goal.”

“We’re close to getting it across the goal line. Like the Senate president, I would like to see us be able to do that. We have a voting session on March the 25th, and I think that would be terrific if we could get it through on that day,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin said the final touches on a couple-hundred page bill are still being made.

“This is a terrific bill we’ve worked through that achieves any number of things including social justice issues, including things like giving regular New Jerseyans the opportunity to get involved in the industry as we go forward,” he said. “We’ve built in safeguards and protections. There’s a lot that gets done in this bill.”

The calendar is the main reason March 25 looms as a key date.

The Legislature has one more round of committee hearings planned next Monday, followed by twin voting sessions a week later. Then most of its action goes on hiatus for seven weeks while the budget committees hold intensive hearings.

Any pressure New Jersey officials may have been feeling to approve marijuana legalization before its neighbors eased a bit Monday, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s no longer confident it will be done for that state’s new budget that starts in April.


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