On Monday, lawmakers in New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly approved a resolution for full legalization in November 2020. The politicians came close in 2019 to writing legislation that would legalize adult use cannabis, but ultimately failed and were unable to pass any laws. By punting, the voters will now decide whether to legalize cannabis for adults’ use in November 2020.
Last month, Senate President Steve Sweeney proposed a voter referral to directly legalize cannabis. That resolution passed in both legislative chambers with supermajority support, with the Senate voting 24-16 in favor and the Assembly voting 49-24-1 in favor of the resolution.
Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project said, “While we are disappointed the legislature did not directly legalize marijuana, we are optimistic that 2020 will be the year New Jersey replaces its eight-decade-long experiment with marijuana prohibition with a more thoughtful and humane approach. Marijuana prohibition has derailed thousands of lives in New Jersey, while driving marijuana production and sales to the sometimes dangerous illicit market. Only with adult-use legalization can the state regulate cannabis to protect workers, communities, and consumers.”
If voters pass the legislation next November, New Jersey would become the 12th state to legalize adult-use cannabis. The decision to allow voters to decide on legalization comes as several other states along the East Coast grapple with full legalization. Massachusetts has already taken the plunge, while Connecticut and New York have been slow to react.
Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance said, “Given the legislature’s inability to pass marijuana regulation on its own, referring the question to the ballot is at least a way for legislators to begin responding to their constituents, 62% of which support legalization. In addition to putting the question before voters, it’s critical that policymakers also incorporate measures to repair the harms of prohibition in implementing legislation going forward. Expungement of past marijuana-related offenses is a key component of that, and it’s encouraging that policymakers are making progress on that front.”
Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project said, “Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana is the cannabis policy New Jersey deserves. It is unacceptable to accept the status quo of prohibition that continues to negatively impact countless lives and communities. I am hopeful that New Jerseyans will vote in favor of adult-use legalization in 2020.”