Recreational marijuana could soon be legal in NJ

David Madden
March 12, 2019 - 12:22 pm
medical marijuana

Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — After months of political wrangling, there’s a deal in place to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey. That deal, reached between the governor and leaders in the legislature, now goes to the state General Assembly and Senate, where its fate is not certain.

This has always been a priority for Gov. Phil Murphy, not so much for allowing adults to smoke pot in their homes, but because of the tax revenue it would raise: $60 million is included in the proposed budget.

Informal head counts suggest the plan still needs a few votes in both houses to ensure passage, and the governor concedes they have work to do.

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"We are working together to get the votes in both chambers," Murphy told reporters at an unrelated event in Jersey City. "So the Senate president, the speaker, myself, other leaders — we’re all in this together working this jointly."

Another major issue is expungement of criminal records for minor drug offenses, which is included in the deal.

"I got there via the notion and the yawning gaps of social injustice in our state, particularly among persons who are incarcerated across racial lines," he added. "We have the widest white/non-white gap of persons incarcerated in America."

READ: N.J. attorney general temporarily delays prosecution of marijuana court cases

Legislative leaders echoed that sentiment in a press release.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester County) said, "This plan will allow for the adult use of cannabis in a responsible way. It will create a strictly regulated system that permits adults to purchase limited amount of marijuana for personal use. It will bring marijuana out of the underground market so that it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has since the end of Prohibition. This plan will also advance important social justice reforms to help reverse the discriminatory impact that drug laws have had on diverse communities."

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex County) added, "Getting to this point wasn’t easy. We talked and we negotiated in good faith, but most importantly, we listened."

He also believes "this new, regulated industry will help boost our economy, but I am particularly proud of the critical social justice components included in the bill."

Murphy expects people to be able to buy cannabis in the state early next year, assuming the legislature goes along with fast-tracking the plan. A vote is expected before the end of the month.