While cannabis law reformers in New Jersey have been challenged under the rule of Governor Chris Christie to pull the state out of prohibitionary times, there is a real possibility that the state’s next governor, set to take office in 2018, will be in favor of legalizing marijuana.
During a recent town hall meeting, Phil Murphy, the gubernatorial candidate most likely to sweep the Democratic nomination, alluded he was in favor of establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis industry in the Garden State. When asked his position on the issue of pot reform, Murphy said, “I support legalization,” adding that, after giving the issue some careful consideration, he believes making weed legal is really the best approach.
As for now, New Jersey only has a limited medical marijuana law on the books, one that has been criticized by advocates for years because it has left so many patients out in the cold. However, the program recently got a surprising boost from Governor Christie after he signed a piece of legislation adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualified conditions.
Most advocates were shocked by Christie’s seemingly generous action because, let’s face it, he has not exactly been a pillar of support when it comes to pot—not even when it comes to expanding medicinal use. Christie, who vowed to shut down the cannabis industry in legal states back when he was trying to become the next leader of the free world, has said more than once that marijuana would never be made legal in New Jersey while he is in office.
“As long as I’m governor of New Jersey, there won’t be legalized marijuana in this state,” Christie said last year at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new drug treatment center.
Fortunately, Christie’s time is running out. His term as governor is slated to end at the beginning of 2018.
There is a significant amount of support in New Jersey for marijuana legalization. Last year, a group of city prosecutors, law enforcement officers and members of the ACLU called “New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform” said it was lobbying for state legislation to make weed legal in a manner similar to what is going on in Colorado. The group estimates legalization would bring about $300 million in new revenue for the state—also saving $127 million by no longer prosecuting people for pot-related offenses.
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican, recently introduced a bill aimed at legalizing marijuana in the same fashion as tobacco. The bill would allow adults 19 years old and older to purchase cannabis products from convenience stores, supermarkets and other retail outlets where tobacco is typically sold. Although Carroll is not under any delusion that Governor Christie will sign his bill into law—that is if it makes it through the state legislature—his goal is to open up the debate once again to build some positive momentum on the issue for when the next governor takes office.
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