The Garden State Is Taking One Last Stab At Legalization

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has fought for cannabis legalization for more than a year, making legalization a pillar of his 2017 campaign. Now, with strives for decriminalization falling short and leaving the state with nothing more than an increase in medical programing, Democrat Gov. Murphy and Senate President Stephen Sweeney want one last shot at legalizing cannabis in the Garden State. 

“I think I’ve been consistent that I hoped we could have one more shot at this,” said Murphy in a statement to Asbury Park Press. “Getting something to happen sooner, if we have a real shot at that, I’d be all in. (…) Count me all in to try and work toward that.” 

Sweeney, who said three months ago that legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes “wouldn’t be realized at this time,” is also advocating for another run through the legislative process. Although Sweeney was the one to pull the plug on the effort back in May, believing it to be clear that they wouldn’t gather enough votes to pass legislation, the state Senate President recently told NJ.com, “I’m not going to give up trying. We’ll make one more run at it.” 

While the initial plan was for lawmakers to reintroduce the questions to NJ voters through a ballot referendum in 2020, Sweeney now feels that an agreement between himself, Murphy, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughling could be enough to make it happen. If laws are not changed even then, and initiative for the 2020 ballot is likely. 

Scott Rudder, president of the NJ CannaBusiness Association, explained to Marijauana Business Daily that legislative action is preferable to ballot initiative, in this case, as a ballot initiative would be a constitutional amendment and more difficult to change than a law.

According to 2018 poll by Rutger-Eagleton, 58% of New Jerseyans support legalization of possession and personal use of cannabis. Any additional effort towards legalization would likely come toward the end of 2019, or early in 2020, so stay tuned for updates.

Emerald contributor since June 2019

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