Legalized Recreational Pot in NJ Will Likely Have to Wait Until 2020

By RICK MELLERUP | May 22, 2019
Source: Wikipedia

Trenton — If you are interested in marijuana in New Jersey, be you pro or con, you may want to circle two dates on your calendar.

The first is June 30, 2019. The other is Nov. 3, 2020.

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who had been a leading proponent of legalizing recreational weed for those 21 years of age or older in the Garden State, gave up on the legislative route last Thursday, throwing in the towel after meeting stiff resistance in the Senate even though that body has a 26 to 14 Democratic majority.

“There was never a list of (Senate) votes provided to me to show they were close,” said Sweeney.

But Sweeney and many other lawmakers, including some Republicans, are still hoping to pass a bill dramatically expanding the state’s medical marijuana program by the end of June if not earlier. Sweeney had previously linked the passage of that bill to the one legalizing recreational pot in an effort to push through the latter. Separating the two will likely boost the medical marijuana bill over the top.

The medical marijuana bill would legalize cannabis-infused edibles, oils and topicals for patients, increase the amount of smokable marijuana a patient can purchase each month from two to three ounces, and allow patients, who currently have to be re-certified for the program every three months, to only have to be re-certified once a year.

Another bill would make it easier for people who were convicted for possession of small amounts of marijuana to have their records expunged.

As for recreational pot, Sweeney has said he will now push for a voter referendum on the issue.

The move to a referendum makes sense. Recent polls have consistently shown the majority of Garden State voters support recreational weed. A Monmouth University poll in February showed 62 percent of New Jersey adults supported legalizing small amounts of recreational marijuana while just 32 percent opposed it. And of 10 states that have legalized recreational pot only Vermont did so without a referendum. However, voters in Ohio, Arizona and North Dakota have all rejected such measures.

New Jersey’s pot supporters know the risks associated with a referendum. That’s why the referendum will more than likely take place in 2020 instead of 2019.

The 2019 election will likely have a low turnout considering ballots will be topped by General Assembly candidates. Weed advocates figure a light turnout will feature a high percentage of older voters.  —R.M.



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