This has been one hell of a week for marijuana in the Tri-State reefer scene.
After Governor Cuomo attempted to pass a bill that would have decriminalized the "public view" loophole of pot policy, Senate Republicans banded together to scalp the proposal before reaching a vote. Once the bill was dead, Cuomo called out the Senate Republican blockers for their "extreme conservative policy" and warned them that they'd face electoral consequences for the buzz-kill opposition. Now that the legislative deadline past last Thursday, it seems as if New York State and its voters will have to wait until January for any future attempts to smoke their weed in a much calmer (and legal) environment.
And then we found out that New Jersey, our neighbor to the west, and its state government were weighing a decriminalization bill akin to the one that died in Albany. It would make possession of a half ounce or less a summary violation - a major downgrade from the current situation, where possession lands you a $1,000 fine and possible jail time. The bill runs parallel to Jersey voters' 58% approval rating of quasi-legalizing the cannabis and a vote is being pushed for this Monday to test this civilian-government relationship.
But, it turns out that Cuomo's "extreme" Republican accusation stretches into Jersey territory. And it includes his colleague, Governor Chris Christie.
In his first statement ever on the whole pot decriminalization issue, the New Jersey Governor promised a crowd at a town hall meeting yesterday that he would veto the bill making its way through the state government. This move comes in absolute contrast to Cuomo; instead of leading the effort, Christie is making sure the effort chokes to death (in legislative terms, of course).
"The federal government still says marijuana is an illegal drug," Christie remarked. "I don't think we should send any sort of tacit approval to our children that somehow is not bad anymore." Preferring the federal government over state rights? That's not "extreme conservative philosophy," as Cuomo declared; that's just obedience.
But, there's another (a much nicer) reason: in the next few months, New Jersey will be implementing a medical marijuana program that is strictly set up to help older patients with illnesses. And, because of this, Christie is worried that a decriminalization bill will interfere with the program's initial upkeep because it would "be contrary to the message we're sending." That pot can help the severely ill or...? Also, Jersey could use the money, especially with this halfway house scandal escalating by the day.
Due to this veto threat, the bill has been sent back for amendments in order to clear the hurdle if Christie actually goes through with it. So, the expected vote on Monday is unlikely. Let's see how the Jersey action plays out in the following days to come.