In what is seen as a rebuke to Trump and his administration’s policies, voters in Virginia and New Jersey elected Ralph Northam and Philip Murphy to the states’ highest position, sending Democrats to the governor’s mansion. The two replace Republican governors in states that went blue during the 2016 election.
Most notable (for our readers, at least) is that Murphy has said he plans to have marijuana legalized in New Jersey within his first 100 days. With part of Murphy’s extensive education plan depending on taxes from marijuana revenue, he is sure to make it a priority leading into his January 2018 inauguration.
Marijuana legalization has support in the state legislature, namely from Nick Scutari (the main sponsor of a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana) and Steve Sweeney (the Senate president who supports the bill). They have resisted sending the bill to soon-to-be-former Governor Chris Christie’s desk, as a veto was almost certainly be guaranteed.
“We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates… But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK,” said Christie in a speech earlier this year. “People like Nick Scutari and Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway. Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis. Let’s legalize cocaine. Let’s legalize angel dust. Let’s legalize all of it. What’s the difference? Let everybody choose.”
Phil Murphy’s campaign had a short response: “It is no surprise that we fundamentally disagree with Gov. Christie on this, as we do on so much else.”
Virginia will also join the game, with Northam pledging to decriminalize marijuana use.
He pushed the issue as a big part of his tenure as lieutenant governor, writing to the state legislature that current marijuana laws disproportionately impact African Americans. He’s also said that, as a physician, he is “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy and treatment for PTSD.”
Neither candidate’s opponent supported marijuana legalization or changing current marijuana policies.
As there were so many other political elements at play this election—namely the polarized political climate—it’s difficult to know if how greatly these issues registered with voters as they weighed other issues. Nonetheless, it is a good sign for future prospects of marijuana reform.