Murphy on New Jersey marijuana referendum: 'It’s better than nothing'

David Madden
December 18, 2019 - 4:00 am
Governor Phil Murphy announces a five-point Computer Science for ALL State Plan and FY20 Funding Opportunities at Bridgewater-Raritan High School

Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey voters will decide next November whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. The governor promises to work for its approval, although he’s clearly not thrilled with waiting a year to get it done. 

Speaking at an event in Trenton Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy admitted that the referendum route was "better than nothing." After all, he had tried twice to have the legislature approve the question but ran into enough Senate opposition to stop it. 

Still, he told reporters that while the campaign plays out, "600 people per week, so that’ll be over 30,000 people by the time we get to this referendum, will be arrested for low-end drug crimes, most of which are marijuana and they will be overwhelmingly persons of color and overwhelmingly male persons of color."

Related: Marijuana legalization to be in NJ voters' hands in 2020

And street drug trade will continue for another year, something the governor calls unacceptable. 

Murphy says he’ll take some steps soon to address those concerns in the short term. 

Proponents have worked to tie legalization to a plan to clear minor, non-violent drug violations from personal criminal records. But given the referendum will be on the same ballot as the presidential election, it’s certain to get more people out to vote.