Lawmakers hit a Snag
A recreational weed industry in New Jersey would pull in epic profits and a tax windfall if done right. That’s particularly attractive considering the difficulty the state has had over the years in balancing its budget. Cannabis entrepreneurs and business professionals have been eyeing the market for some time. This is the most densely populated state in the nation, with a high cost of living, high incomes, and an educated populace.
Moreover, it’s proximity to New York City and Philadelphia means oodles of out-of-state cash could line pockets and state coffers. Analysts estimate New Jersey could rake in $1 million, should it legalize before its neighbors. All of this and yet, the vote on legalization has been delayed.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) announced on March 25 that his chamber fell short of the votes required. Note that the Democrats have majorities in both houses of the legislature. Advocates shared their disappointment with the media. They have been lobbying for years, decrying the state’s drug laws are unfair to minorities. These communities suffer higher arrest and incarceration rates, even though cannabis use is more or less uniform across demographics.
The Social Justice Component
Sweeney said that although they were disappointed, significant progress had been made. He said that Democratic Governor Phil Murphy had worked tirelessly with himself, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), and social justice leaders to try and get the bill passed. Murphy had been whipping up support for the bill for over a month. It was, in fact, Democrats representing urban areas who were not on board.
They said the bill didn’t do enough to remediate their constituents criminal records. That and pot shops in their communities might become more of a burden than a boon. Two key points Murphy had said he wants to address are helping minority entrepreneurs gain entryway into the market and expunging the records of those convicted of low-level, cannabis-related crimes.
When Will They Vote Again?
“This fight is not over,” Sweeney said. “We need to learn from this experience and continue to move forward. While this legislation is not advancing today, I remain committed to its passage.” Coughlin said the state got closer than ever before to legalization and that he’d continue fighting to make it happen. Sweeney announced that a vote wasn’t going to occur until June at the earliest. More likely, it’ll happen after November’s election, perhaps sometime in December.
If it doesn’t pass then, New Jersey officials could put the matter in front of voters in the form of a ballot referendum, next year. This is how the vast majority of states have legalized. Only Vermont legalized legislatively. Yet, the Green Mountain State doesn’t have recreational shops. So would it pass if left up to voters?
How do New Jerseyans Feel?
According to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll conducted last October, state residents are behind the measure. 58% of respondents said they support legalization for adult use. 79% said those who have endured a low-level, cannabis-related charge should have their records expunged. Slowly, support has grown over the past 50 years.
Interestingly, half of the adults polled said they have tried cannabis, and 25% said they’d consider using it, should it be legalized. Although a number of New Jersey towns have already banned recreational dispensaries, 64% of respondents polled said they wouldn’t be bothered if such a shop opened in their town. A similar national Gallup poll early last October found that 66% of Americans back legalization.
Although lawmakers in the Garden State continue to struggle to pass a recreational bill, considering those poll numbers, a ballot referendum would certainly pass. As such, legalization is more or less assured. The timeline, however, is in question. Will New Jersey legalize before New York and Pennsylvania? Only time will tell.
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Distillation and Reclamation
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To learn more about New Jersey’s recreational predicament, click here: