Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts to reverse the progress of an Obama-era charge against marijuana prohibition, state-by-state legalization still remains as relevant as ever. Look no further than Vermont’s recent legalization of the plant as proof that states still have the power to make a change. Vermont became the first state to legalize cannabis through a legislative measure, rather than a state-approved ballot initiative, and it’s only a matter of time before other states follow suit. The only question is, who? There is a good chance that it’s New Jersey who will be ushering in a new, post-Chris Christie era. There’s a chance that the biggest benefactor of the Governor’s departure will be cannabis advocates. So, will New Jersey be the next state to legalize marijuana? Let’s take a look at some facts.
A New Era: Will New Jersey Be The Next State To Legalize Marijuana?
One of the biggest signals of change has been the election of Democrat Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, and the incumbent Governor of New Jersey. He’s supplanted Christie, a notorious cannabis-detractor, and has already instilled a belief that New Jersey will embrace the plant recreationally.
Murphy wrote on his own campaign website that he believes legalizing cannabis will help allocate police time to more violent, serious crimes, rather than petty marijuana arrests.
“Legalize marijuana so police can focus resources on violent crimes,” Murphy explained.
In addition, Murphy believes the legal pot industry in New Jersey can bring in up to $300 million a year in tax revenue. Jon Whiten, a spokesman for the New Jersey Policy Perspective, believes at this point, it’s more of a “when” and not “if.”
“The uncertainty at this point is how long it will take from the legislation being signed to stores selling product,” said Whiten.
Kate Bell, the New Jersey specialist for the Marijuana Policy Project, believes New Jersey can follow in Oregon’s footsteps and have products on the market by the end of 2019. That would assume a legislative to legalize the plant would have to be approved within the next few months.
“Oregon took two years, and that seems like a reasonable timeline,” said Bell. “Absolute best case scenario, you’re looking at late 2019.”
Furthermore, two major cities in New Jersey recently voiced their approval for recreational dispensaries and are already in the process of preparing for the legalization.
On Wednesday, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that he was working with officials to determine zoning laws for prospective dispensaries.
“I’m a supporter of legalization of marijuana + in next few weeks our planning dept is going to clean up JC zoning laws so that we can get ahead of where we’ll allow/not allow dispensaries, grow facilities etc. we want our zoning to be clear w/community input + to avoid lawsuits,” Fulop tweeted.
Two of the top officials in Asbury Park also said they are open to the idea of legal cannabis. Mayor John Moor and Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn both said that as long as there are proper state regulations in play, they’re all for it.
“I have no problem with medical or recreational marijuana, as long as it’s legally dispensed and taxed,” Moor said.
Final Hit: Will New Jersey Be The Next State To Legalize Marijuana?
At the moment, it appears that the majority of New Jersey figureheads are on board with the legalization of marijuana. This should come as no shock considering the federal representation of the state is Senator Cory Booker, who has made it his number one priority to legalize marijuana on a federal level.
Booker, an outspoken critic of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recently found a co-sponsor of his marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Justice Act. If passed, the bill would effectively remove cannabis off of the controlled substance list.
While Booker’s proactive endeavor might require some time, it appears his home state’s status remains far less up-in-the-air. At this point, for New Jersey, it’s sooner, rather than later.