It’s Official: Legal weed to be decided to NJ voters, bill is dead

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It is now officially dead. Top state lawmakers are dropping efforts to pass a bill that would legalize marijuana in New Jersey.

The following was written May 6th on GreaterLakewood:

After multiple attempts by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to pass a bill legalizing recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey ended in failure, it now looks like the issue will go before voters, according to a report from NJ Advance Media.

According to the report, which cited six legislative and industry sources with direct knowledge of the discussions, the three leaders have largely given up on passing the bill legislatively and will likely put in a ballot referendum in the 2020 November election.

Related: NJ Legislature Cancels Planned Marijuana Vote

Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin have hoped to go the legislative route because they say it would give them more flexibility with how the program gets rolled out, the report noted.

New Jersey would have become the 11th state to legalize the drug, but only the second state after Vermont to do it through the state legislature as opposed to allowing the residents to decide through a referendum.

Although Democrats control both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, the legislation still faced pushback from lawmakers concerned that it doesn’t go far enough in terms of erasing past criminal convictions related to use of the drug and from others who expressed safety concerns.

The bill, which needed 21 votes to pass the senate, reportedly only had the support of 17 Senators, before the vote was called off.

Appearing on this year’s ballot is not likely because the entire Assembly is up for re-election this year and Coughlin does not want to risk his members chances.

Related: 76 Of The 80 New Jersey General Assembly Incumbents Filed For Re-election

A divisive issue may motivate opponents – who are most likely Republican voters – to turn out to the polls.

But next November will see a presidential election, with a likely larger — and younger — turnout. And many expect such a referendum would pass easily then.

In the meantime, Murphy, for whom legalization was a top campaign pledge, is expected to follow through with plans to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. The move would make it much easier for patients to obtain the drug, which Murphy says is sorely needed.

If New Jersey voters do pass legal pot at the ballot box in 2020, it may be be another few months — at least — before you could legally smoke because the state would need time to set the industry up, the report noted.

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