NJ Politics Digest: Legal Weed Effort Failed, Assisted Suicide Approved

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney.
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy were forced to abandon their efforts to legalize the recreational use of medical marijuana Monday. But the drama leading up to the measure being pulled due to a lack of support in the state Senate overshadowed action on other legislation that is arguably more groundbreaking and controversial.

The legislature approved the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, which allows for assisted suicide. Gov. Phil Murphy says he will sign the measure, according to a report in The Record.

Supporters have been trying to win approval of the measure for years, with efforts in 2014 and 2016 falling short in the state Senate, according to the report. On Monday, it passed with the minimum of votes needed in both the Senate and Assembly, the report said.

The plan will allow terminally ill and mentally competent patients to request and receive a prescription for medication that will end their lives.

The measure includes a variety of safeguards, according to the report. It also requires that the patient self-administer the medication.

The legislature approved the measure on the same day it failed to act on the plan to legalize and tax recreational marijuana use. Senate President Steve Sweeney pulled the plan after it became clear it didn’t have enough votes to pass in the senate, despite his and Gov. Murphy’s efforts to sway opponents, according to reports.

Reasons for opposition were varied, according to reports, ranging from people who favored decriminalization instead of legalization to others who claimed they couldn’t support plans to expunge the criminal records of those convicted of selling five pounds of weed.

While chastened by the failure to pass a priority of the governor’s in a legislature controlled by his party, Democratic leaders said they aren’t done trying to win approval for legalization. Sweeney said he might hold a vote after the November elections, when voters won’t have a chance to punish those who vote in favor of the plan, according to reports.

Quote of the Day: “I might’ve underestimated the challenge of getting this passed,” — Senate President Steve Sweeney, on the failed attempt legalize recreational marijuana use.

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