New Jersey has become the latest city to put cannabis legalization on its 2020 ballot. The state Senate voted in favor of the measure 24-16, while the state Assembly voted 49-24, with one abstention. This could make New Jersey the 34th state in the country to legalize cannabis.
Let the People Decide
Governor Phil Murphy has always expressed his support for the legalization of cannabis but postponing the action for almost two years. Instead, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney suggested putting the measure on a ballot to let the people decide. A three-fifths majority must decide in favor of passing the measure for it to succeed, which it did. The Senate barely passed the measure with 24 votes in favor, which is exactly three-fifths.
New Jersey is hoping this legalization will help in ways similar to other states who have legalized cannabis. This includes millions of dollars from revenue tax, attempting to fix the communities affected by the war on drugs, and many others. There are plenty of reasons to legalize cannabis on paper, but not everyone has been a fan of the idea.
“We should expect more New Jerseyans dying every year if this were to pass,” said state Senator Gerald Cardinale. “What a wonderful idea: Let the people decide.”
If cannabis does become legalized, the law will likely go into effect the following year. It is unclear as to what the legalization would actually do for New Jersey, but it would definitely affect the state’s black market. Like every state who hasn’t legalized the drug, New Jersey’s black market is currently surging. The only way to combat this illegal activity is by making the drug available to the public.
California is the only state in the country to not have direct benefits from the legalization of cannabis. Although the state has been the frontrunner of modern cannabis culture, it has also struggled to control its underground black market. One main reason why this is happening in California is because of its size and lack of ability to account for the demand from the entire state. New Jersey shouldn’t have to worry about this, however, because their state is significantly smaller than California.
Nonetheless, New Jerseyans will be happy to at least have the decision in their hands. This is only one small step for the cannabis industry. Saren O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, best describes this progress.
“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,” said O’Keefe. “Marijuana prohibition has derailed thousands of lives in New Jersey while driving marijuana production and sales to the sometimes dangerous illicit market.”