Volume 11 Issue 57 - Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Marijuana Legalization Approved by Voters, Legislators Take Action; New Restrictions on Restaurants, S&P Downgrades New Jersey’s Credit Rating & Murphy Signs Strongest Paper/Plastic Bag Ban in Nation

Marijuana Legalization Approved by Voters, Legislators Take Action: Last week, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a historic constitutional amendment that legalized adult-use marijuana and has re-started the legislative effort to create a regulatory framework for the industry.

Just days after the successful ballot question passed, Gov. Phil Murphy made his first picks for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Dianna Houenou, an associate counsel and senior policy adviser to the governor, will serve as the chair of the five-person commission. Assistant Department of Health Commissioner Jeff Brown, head of the state’s medical marijuana program, has been named the commission’s executive director.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee took hours of public testimony before both passing the enabling legislation for the new, legal, adult-use marijuana industry. These bills now head to a full vote of the Senate and Assembly.

Murphy Announces New Restrictions on Restaurants: Beginning on Thursday, New Jersey will require restaurants to stop indoor dining by 10 p.m. and prohibit all indoor, interstate organized sports up to the high school level. These new restrictions

Restaurants, bars, clubs, lounges and casinos will no longer be able to serve indoors between 10PM and 5AM however restaurants can still serve outside. Bar seating will also be banned under the new restrictions. But bars and restaurants will be allowed to seat groups of people at tables closer than six feet together, if they are separated by plexiglass. Restaurants will also be allowed to set up “outdoor igloos.”

The governor is also banning indoor interstate sports for elementary through high school students. Those restrictions don’t impact professional or collegiate sports.

“The last thing I want to do is shut our economy back down. Thankfully, we’re not at that point,” Murphy said. “These are the measures we are taking now, and they do not preclude us from taking further action in other areas or placing other restricting on these in the near future.

These new restrictions are being imposed as cases of coronavirus are surging again, with more than 2,000 new cases reported on Sunday.

S&P Downgrades New Jersey’s Credit Rating: Last week, S&P Global Rankings lowered its rating for the state from “A-“ to “BBB+” with a stable rating outlook. This slight rating drop comes as the state is embarking on a $4 billion borrowing plan to cover costs related to its COVID-19 response.

On the same day, Fitch Ratings maintained the state’s rating at “A-“ and it’s fiscal outlook at “negative.” The rating, Fitch says, reflects “the state’s adequate but stressed financial resilience as it navigates the economic and fiscal uncertainties posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Murphy Signs Strongest Paper/Plastic Bag Ban in Nation: Last week, Governor Murphy signed into law S864, which prohibits the use of single-use plastic and paper bags in all stores and food service businesses statewide.

Beginning on May 2022, both plastic and paper single-use bags, as well as disposable food containers and cups and polystyrene foam, will be banned. Under the new law, food service businesses will be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws only upon request, starting November 2021.

“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that steam into our landfills, rivers and oceans, said Governor Murphy. “With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”