It’s looking like the Garden State is about to plant some new greenery.
Following Democrat Phil Murphy’s victory in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election on Tuesday, marijuana legalization in the state could very quickly become a reality. The incoming governor, who won his race in a landslide, made cannabis legalization a key part of his campaign platform.
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” he said in his democratic primary election victory speech last June. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
A bill to legalize cannabis was introduced into the New Jersey Senate last June by State Senator Nicholas Scutari, but with Republican Governor Chris Christie in office, it saw little hope of passing. Murphy’s election victory changes that narrative.
Murphy’s proposal would legalize the recreational use of that sweet, sticky devil’s lettuce across the state, which is just a stone’s throw away from Manhattan. He’s not going at it alone, either. Democrats now have full control of the state’s legislature, and are making the issue a key part of their agenda going into 2018. New Jersey Senate President told the Washington Examiner this week that he is confident that a marijuana legalization bill will be signed into law before April.
“This is something Murphy supports and I support it and I don’t think anyone is going to go out of their way to embarrass the governor,” Sweeney told the magazine. “It’s a priority and it’s something we’re going to need to do.”
If passed, New Jersey would become the ninth state in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and the first to do so through legislation instead of a ballot initiative.
Even though a New Jersey marijuana legalization bill could be signed into law in the first few months of 2018, it would still take a good while to go into effect.
“Even though a marijuana legalization bill could be passed in the first 100 days [of Murphy’s administration], that doesn’t mean that we’ll immediately see an adult-use program,” said Cristina Buccola, a lawyer who owns a boutique law firm focused on the cannabis industry. “Even with an aggressive timeline, it would likely take 18 months after the bill passes before adults 21 and older could start consuming cannabis.”
A decade ago, the prospect of legalizing marijuana for recreational use sounded like a pipe dream. But now it appears that the nation has reached a tipping point when it comes to allowing its citizens to get stoned. Eight states and the Disctrict of Columbia have already legalized cannabis for recreational use, and another 19 have medical marijuana programs on the books. In October, a new Gallup poll showed that a record high 64 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana.
While New Jersey seems poised to legalize cannabis next year, a similar bill has been caught up in the New York State Senate since last January.