NJ marijuana legalization: Steve Sweeney exploring ‘restriction’ on legal weed edibles

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NEPTUNE – Senate President Stephen Sweeney will look at a possible restriction on edible forms of marijuana in an attempt to win over legislators hesitant to vote for legal weed.

Sweeney, D-Gloucester, raised the concerns about edibles Tuesday during an editorial board meeting with the Asbury Park Press. Several Democrats had expressed concerns about cannabis-infused edibles that, if left unattended, could look appealing to a child.

Check out the full transcript of APP’s interview with Sweeney here!

In an attempt to win enough votes to pass a marijuana legalization bill, Sweeney said he was “actually looking at maybe restricting certain (edible) ones.” 

“Edibles, we have to look at,” Sweeney said. “Gummy bears? Kids can pick up a gummy bear. The thing we learned in Colorado (where recreational marijuana is legal) is about packaging. You have to make it unattractive to children.

“It’s not like a cereal box that’s all colorful with cartoon characters. It has to be very bland with nothing that makes someone say ‘that looks really cool, I want to try it,'” Sweeney said. “Kids eat gummy bears all the time. If you want to consume marijuana, I don’t think you need gummy bears. There’s other ways of ingesting marijuana.”

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And don’t forget to join “Let’s Talk About Marijuana,” our Facebook group dedicated to discussing the ins-and-outs of legal weed. 

The possibility of children getting their hands on marijuana edibles is a common concern usually raised by legal weed opponents. When weed became legal in Colorado in 2016, the skyrocketing popularity of edibles stumped regulators, who failed to foresee users eating too many cannabis candies or children mistaking a pot brownie for a snack.

A year later, Colorado passed a series of reforms, requiring edible products to prominently display information on potency and serving size, as well as banning marijuana edibles shaped like humans, animals, fruits or cartoons.

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In New Jersey, the issue was raised in March during internal discussions over legalizing weed, when a bill fell two votes short of the support needed to press ahead with a vote, Sweeney said. But since the vote had already been cancelled the issue was not revisited. 

Amid disagreements with Gov. Phil Murphy over a controversial business incentives program, Sweeney announced in May that he would instead look to legalize recreational marijuana through a ballot initiative.

“My members are afraid if you left one around and a kid said, ‘oh, that’s a brownie,'” Sweeney said. “Those are things we can’t ignore. I’m not talking about doing away with edibles. I’m talking about looking at them because I’ve heard it from my membership.”

While some legislators, including prominent black Democrats from Newark and other urban areas, were morally opposed to legal weed, the biggest concern was that the bill would allow offenders to expunge charges for possession of up to 5 pounds of marijuana, Sweeney said. 

Under current law, marijuana possession of 50 grams to 5 pounds is considered illegal under the same statute. The legal weed bill imposed a limit of 1 ounce per person, but under that statute would allow offenders to expunge the maximum amount of 5 pounds. Opponents said protected drug dealers holding 5 pounds of marijuana.

“That was really something that made a lot of caucus members who were ‘yes’ votes became ‘no’s,” Sweeney said. “We’re looking at possibly addressing that in a different piece of legislation.”

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Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  listens to a question for Asbury Park Press editorial page editor Randy Bergmann in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  participates in an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.

  • Stephen Sweeney, president of New Jersey Senate,  listens to a question for Asbury Park Press editorial page editor Randy Bergmann in Neptune Tuesday, August 13, 2019.1 of 8
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mdavis@gannettnj.com or @byMikeDavis on Twitter.

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