NJ lawmakers to hold hearing on legalizing marijuana

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers are planning a hearing later this month to consider legislation to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state.

The judiciary committee will hear from clergy, health professionals, law enforcement officials and other policy experts on Nov. 16, Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari said Monday.

"There is no question that we need to update our archaic drug laws in this country, and the majority of people support regulating, taxing and legalizing marijuana," Scutari said.

The hearing announcement comes as lawmakers prepare for a lame-duck session of the Legislature and as Gov. Chris Christie spends time outside New Jersey campaigning for the Republican nomination for president. Marijuana has been legalized for all uses in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska and for medical use in more than 20 others, including New Jersey.

Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has said he would revive enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it if he were elected president.

New Jersey's medical marijuana law is among the most restrictive in the nation, with patients and doctors required to register with the state and each pay a $200 fee. There are five medical marijuana dispensaries and a sixth is pending.

Scutari, who chairs the judiciary committee, sponsored a bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New Jersey for people over 21. It has not advanced beyond committee.

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