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This week, contentious testimony on amendments to legislation to create a marijuana marketplace in New Jersey largely revolved around social justice issues and the number of licensed growers the state will allow. 

But receiving less of the spotlight were new concerns raised by NJBIA about weakened protections for employers seeking to maintain a drug-free workplace, particularly in critical public safety industries. 

The Assembly version of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act (A-21/S-21) now calls for the use of certified experts to make decisions and act if an employee is suspected of being under the influence. 

While there is still workplace protection language in the bills, Cantor told the Assembly Appropriations Committee in testimony on Thursday that the new amendments would “create uncertainty,” as well as new burdens that require drug-free workplaces. 

These amendments significantly weaken those protections,” Cantor said. “They favor people’s ability to use cannabis over the public protections of public safety.” 

Cantor maintained the following regarding new amendments in Section 47 of the bill: 

  • Employers should not be required to incur additional expenses to hire experts or to train their staff in order to detect employees who are using cannabis at work. This training is essentially another costly employer mandate; 
  • Workplace Impairment Recognition Experts will not be effective in determining which employees are under the influence of cannabis because the training is not based on scientific standards. In fact, New Jersey courts have currently halted the use of such expert evidence in criminal cases; 
  • Amendments in Section 47 make workplaces less safe, especially those workplaces with significant public safety risks to the public, such as nuclear power plants, refineries, and chemical plants. 
  • Critical industries and high-risk jobs need additional protections to protect public safety. These employers need to be able to maintain drug-free workplaces by ensuring their employees do not use cannabis, even outside the job site.  The limitations on testing mandate this extra protection.  

On the Nov. 3 election ballot, New Jersey voters approved the full legalization of marijuana. But the path since Election Day has been dubious, with an effective deadline of Jan. 1 to get the enabling legislation done 

Last week, the bill was pulled from committees due to differing opinions on how recreational marijuana should be taxed. 

The Assembly Appropriations Committee did pass the amended bill on Thursday, but not after nearly three hours of testimonials from interested parties bemoaning thfact they were not able to see the new amendments prior to the hearings. 

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee also passed the bill late Thursday, after much back and forth, with Chairman Paul Sarlo acknowledging that the two bills will have to be negotiated. 

The Senate and Assembly have now canceled their Monday voting sessions, when they had planned to approve the final bill. 

In the meantime, Cantor says NJBIA will continue to work closely with legislators in both houses to ensure employers have the strongest workplace protections they can with the legalization of recreational cannabis.