Is legal weed finally upon us?

Presented by Anbaric Development Partners


Good Monday morning!

I took some time off last week, and I wondered if the governor would sign weed legalization without me. Turns out he and the Legislature waited for me.

Instead, we saw the death Saturday of one longtime Senator, Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), whose input often made Senate Judiciary Committee meetings interesting, and who I will really miss talking to.

Another senator, Chris Brown (R-Atlantic), announced last week that he won’t seek reelection. So between those two seats and the retirements of Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) and Kip Bateman (R-Somerset), we’re looking at swath of vacancies in the state Senate in this year’s election. And while I don’t have my red book handy, that seems like substantial turnover in the upper chamber.

For now, all eyes are on the Senate and Assembly voting sessions this morning to see if the latest weed legalization “clean-up” bill will finally make it through the Legislature and on to Murphy’s desk, when he can sign the legalization and decriminalization bills that have been there since December. Things are looking up, but I’ve lost count of the number of times this has all come crashing down over the last two months.

WHERE’S MURPHY? On WFAN at 11:20 a.m. to make a COVID-19 restrictions announcement, presumably sports-related. Then in Trenton at 1 p.m. for a coronavirus press conference.

CORONAVIRUS TRACKER — 1,814 newly-reported positive PCR tests for a total of 682,746. 25 more deaths for a total of 20,569 (and 2,289 probable deaths). 2,065 hospitalized, 434 in intensive care. 505,465 fully vaccinated, or about 5.7 percent of the population.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition. But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a workup on Justice Sonia Sotomayo.” — U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas on the man who killed her son.


R.I.P. — Gerald Cardinale, second-longest-serving N.J. lawmaker, dies, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, an 86-year-old Republican, died Saturday morning. Cardinale, New Jersey’s second-longest-serving state lawmaker in history, died at Pascack Valley Hospital after a “brief illness” that was not Covid-19-related, according to announcements from Senate Republicans… Cardinale, a dentist by trade who was one of the most conservative lawmakers in New Jersey, was seeking reelection this year but faced a primary challenge from his other erstwhile running mate, Assemblymember Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen). Cardinale began his career in elective office with the board of the Demarest School District in the late 1970s. He later became mayor of Demarest before winning a seat in the Assembly in 1979. He served one term before being elected to the state Senate in 1981.

NEW JERSEYANS COULD SOON BEGIN SMOKING WEED — Key N.J. Senate committee advances cannabis clean-up bill, setting the stage for Monday vote, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: New Jersey might legalize cannabis next week. Maybe. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday voted, 6-2, with one abstention, to send a clean-up bill, NJ S3454 (20R), that clarifies penalties for underage possession to the full Legislature. If majorities in the Senate and Assembly approve the measure in voting sessions scheduled for Monday, and if Gov. Phil Murphy signs off, New Jersey will finally have a legal framework in place to develop a cannabis marketplace for adult use. Senate lawmakers are increasingly bullish on the bill’s chances, but any last-minute hitch — New Jersey’s legalization effort has been studded with aborted legislation and scuttled agreements — will further delay ending prohibition of a drug two-thirds of New Jersey voters believe should be legal. “I continue to be cautiously optimistic that we can get this done,” state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) said in an interview late Friday afternoon. “I’d like to see this finalized and put this in the back mirror.”

—Senators increasingly confident cannabis cleanup bill will get to Murphy on Monday

—“N.J. cops are still arresting people for weed. Police say they won’t stop until legal marijuana is official”

HIRE MORE MASTROS — “N.J. budget could be surprisingly flush with cash. What will Murphy do with all that money?” by NJ Advance Media’s Samantha Marcus: “Following a $4 billion borrowing plan to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy faces an entirely different dilemma for his Democratic administration. State tax revenues are surpassing projections. More than $6 billion in federal stimulus support could soon be on its way. And the Legislature’s leading Democrat, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, has already said he sees no reason to hike taxes or fees … As Murphy prepares to deliver his fiscal year 2022 budget address on Tuesday, he enters a budget season unlike any other in his first term. The strong tax collections and likelihood of a one-time infusion of federal dollars has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle suggesting New Jersey’s coffers could be flush for at least one fiscal year before a potential cliff in 2023. Some lawmakers see the potential windfall as a chance to make responsible decisions, such as increasing the contribution to the public worker pension fund, replenishing the unemployment trust fund that was decimated by the pandemic or helping schools reopen safely. But they warned the state must not do anything that would jeopardize the budget’s long-term stability.”

HOPELESS HICKS — “N.J. Senate calls for corrections commissioner to step down in overwhelming vote,” by NJ Advance Media’s Blake Nelson: “The New Jersey Senate voted overwhelming Friday for a resolution calling for the head of the prison system to lose his job amid a growing outcry over a series of alleged beatings at the state’s only women’s prison. At the same time, lawmakers in the state Assembly finished drafting articles of impeachment against the commissioner, according to a copy obtained by NJ Advance Media. State senators voted 35-0 to support a federal takeover of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Hunterdon County, the eventual transfer of all women inmates to a safer facility and the ouster of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks.”

COMPUTERS ARE THE FUTURE — “N.J. needs new computers. Just try to get unemployment pay or schedule a vaccine,” by Anthony Bucco for The Star-Ledger: “For far too long, New Jersey has failed to invest in upgrading and modernizing some of its most critical computer systems. This past year made it clear we cannot delay these important projects any longer. It’s not just old systems that are broken. In recent weeks, a flood of people have told me the new COVID-19 vaccine scheduling system doesn’t work either.”

—“Photos: Sen. Gerald Cardinale through the years”

—“Democracy in New Jersey is tainted | Opinion”

—New Jersey will seek standardized testing waiver, make grants available for learning loss

—Lassiter: “LGBTQ candidates (both parties) aim for victory on Election Day in NJ”

—“N.J. residents facing foreclosure would get help under bill now on Murphy’s desk”

—“Friendly Fire: On Team Murphy, mandatory minimums, and a Rush to judgment”

—Persichilli: Storms delayed roughly 230,000 vaccine doses from arriving in New Jersey

—“GOP legislators tell Murphy to call special session to deal with fiscal crisis.”


VACCINES — Vaccination sprint threatens to leave behind minority communities, by POLITICO’s Joanne Kenen and Brianna Ehley: The race to vaccinate as many people as possible while more contagious coronavirus variants march across America is colliding with lagging efforts to steer shots to people of color and underserved communities bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Though the Biden administration has prioritized equitable vaccine distribution, putting that goal into practice is difficult. Local public health officials are under pressure to quickly distribute their limited supplies and reach high-risk groups first in line. So far, limited data continues to show that people in hard-hit minority communities are getting vaccinated at a much slower pace than people in wealthier white ones. “We could see the inequities get worse before they get better,” said Shereef Elnahal, the health commissioner of Newark, N.J. He noted the tension between holding states accountable for using up their allocations and ensuring vulnerable populations aren’t left behind, but he added that communities are coming up with new ways of getting vaccines out.

—“N.J. should work harder to vaccinate Black residents | Opinion”

—“NJ gym owner faces 12-count indictment in Capitol breach”


WHO SAYS TRUMP NEVER HELPED INNER CITY YOUTH? — “Trump Plaza implosion donations help Boys & Girls Club with scholarship, enrichment programs,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s CJ Fairfield: “The former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino may be in pieces after being imploded Wednesday morning, but the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City is on its way to being made whole again because of the event. Auctions leading up to the implosion and a personal donation from Carl Icahn, the owner of the Plaza site, raised more than $191,000 for the Boys & Girls Club, something club CEO Stephanie Koch says will make a tremendous impact … Mostly an afterschool program, the club opened up to kids at 3 p.m. before the pandemic. But with virtual learning, it expanded its hours in September to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offers three meals a day, plus snacks. Longer hours required more staffing — it employs about 50 city residents, and the nearly $200,000 donation is helping sustain the new operating model.”

MARY, MARY, QUITE ETHICALLY CONTRARY — “A.G. drops bribery charge; Mary Dougherty pleads to lesser offense,” by Morristown Green’s Kevin Coughlin: “Mary Dougherty, the fifth defendant in a state political corruption investigation, on Friday pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree charge of falsifying a campaign finance report when she was running for Morris County freeholder in 2018. She will receive probation, for a term to be determined next month by Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor, and pay a $10,000 fine–the amount she was charged with accepting unlawfully. In return for the plea, the state Attorney General’s office dropped a bribery charge, a second-degree crime that carried a potential prison term of five years.”

JUDGE NOT LEST YE CONTINUE TO BE A SITTING JUDGE — “Paterson judge admits claims against her in discipline complaint,” by The Record’s Joe Malinconico: “Municipal court judge Cecilia Sardina Guzman – who served on the city bench for a year while ineligible to practice law – has admitted to the allegations made against her by the state Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct. Guzman had lost her eligibility to practice law from Oct. 22, 2018 until Oct. 17, 2019 because she failed to properly register a trust fund used to deposit clients’ money, according to court records. Earlier this month, Guzman filed a three-page response with the Advisory Committee in which she admitted all 20 claims made by the state Supreme Court panel in its two-count disciplinary complaint. Guzman’s lawyer, Robert Ramsey, said that because there is dispute over the facts in the case, the next step is for the Advisory Committee to decide what punishment to recommend. Guzman, one of six municipal judges in Paterson, has continued to preside over cases while the complaint against her is pending.”

—“Cop’s arrest is latest problem for struggling Paterson police department”

R.I.P. — “Former Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher passes away,” by Jersey Shore Online’s Chris Lundy: “Toms River has lost a treasure trove of institutional knowledge with the passing of former Mayor Thomas Kelaher. He was 88. Toms River Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Daley told Jersey Shore Online ‘Tom Kelaher was a great human being. Very supportive and was just a genuinely nice man. As Mayor we worked Superstorm Sandy together and he was there seven days a week. He will certainly be missed and we all send our thoughts and prayers to his family.’”

DOES RAINONE HAVE ANY LAW PARTNERS? — “Long Branch groping victim sues city, ex-cop and bar; says police wouldn’t stop harassment,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Dan Radel: “Megan King has filed a civil lawsuit against ex-city police officer Patrick Joyce, the city of Long Branch, the Long Branch Police Department and Jack’s Goal Line Stand for a February 2019 incident in which Joyce groped her at a private police gathering at the bar. King, 23, who comes from a police family according to court testimony from 2019, filed under her name instead of remaining anonymous. She claims that other cops at the bar laughed off the harassment rather than coming to her aid, and that the incident seriously injured her, caused her humiliation and embarrassment. See the lawsuit at the bottom of this story … City Attorney Louis Rainone said the city and the police department will vigorously defend themselves against the lawsuit. Rainone and his law firm most likely will defend both entities. Rainone said the officer was off-duty and not at a city-sanctioned event. Their position is the case is between private parties, not public entities.”

SOMEONE’S GOT A LONG TONGUE AND IT’S NOT YOSHI — “Gossipy councilman falsely claims Manale out as Trenton chief of staff,” by The Trentonian’s Isaac Avilucea: “The man who once proclaimed he wasn’t interested in ‘gossip’ was busy spreading it. At-large councilman Santiago Rodriguez claimed in an online post that deputy mayor Yoshi Manale had resigned in a tiff with Mayor Reed Gusciora. ‘Verify this,’ he told members of the popular Trenton Orbit Facebook forum. When one constituent told him he should do his own due diligence as a councilman and report back, Rodriguez exclaimed: ‘You have your Trentonian connection.’ Happy to oblige, the daily tabloid called up Manale to ask about his apparent departure. ‘That’s news to me,’ Manale said by phone Friday. ‘I have not resigned.’”

VOTE SPLITS RESIDENTS, LEAVING HALF SOUR — “Non-residents may no longer be able to play pickleball on Ridgewood courts. Here’s why,” by The Record’s Marsha A. Stoltz: “The Village has a solution to the pickleball noise complaints — no more memberships for non-residents and an end to free senior badges. The ordinance, introduced last week, will be up for a public hearing during a special Feb. 24 meeting. The ordinance was introduced as a first step toward resolving complaints by residents around Glen School’s courts of the increased pop-pop-pop from the hard rackets and balls that are hallmarks of the game, according to Councilwoman Pamela Perron.”

—“After two-month court fight, Republican wins razor-thin Rochelle Park committee race

—“Former Dover employees said their support of ex-Mayor Dodd got them fired. They are suing”

—“Hotel association opposes beach tags for the Wildwoods”

—“Here’s how much Hunterdon County has saved under new jail agreement”

—“Brick schools face $5.2 million cut in state aid, shrinking patience from parents”

—“PERC orders Mayor Martin administration to stop shortchanging Hamilton cops”

—“Hoboken, Jersey City take final steps toward a merged Citi Bike system”

—Mulshine: “Jersey Shore locals say the Sierra Club is all wet on sand replenishment”


CHUBBAWAMBA — “NJPAC files lawsuit against NJ insurer to recover business losses due to COVID,” by The Record’s Tom Nobile: “In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center targeted Chubb Insurance Co. of New Jersey for breach of contract, claiming the insurer declined to honor a policy that purportedly covered “all risks” to the business. The center has paid ‘hundreds of thousands’ in premiums for that coverage, according to the suit, filed in state Superior Court in Essex County. The policy, according to the complaint, should have anticipated state and local health mandates that restricted large gatherings and hurt NJPAC’s bottom line. The center’s primary revenue stream — its ticket sales, venue rentals and associated fees for food and parking — have all but vanished amid social distancing requirements, the suit says.”

SPRING THE STEEN — “Bruce Springsteen DWI arrest is a ‘Jersey disgrace,’ says singing NJ lawyer Eric Harrison,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Chris Jordan: “The DWI arrest of Bruce Springsteen on Sandy Hook is a ‘Jersey-sized disgrace,’ says Jersey musician and lawyer Eric Harrison. Harrison lays out his argument — and pitches himself to be the lawyer for the Boss — in his tuneful new track, ‘A Jersey-Sized Disgrace.’ … ‘If they supply a public defender I know he’s gonna win this case ’Cause a DUI for a .02 Is a Jersey-sized disgrace’ Actually, Mitchell Ansell of Ocean Township is Springsteen’s lawyer and a court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24.”

—“Why Texas-sized power outages not likely to devastate New Jersey

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