New Jersey voters will decide on a constitutional amendment in 2020 that would legalize cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Recent polling has voter support for legalization at 62%.
The measure passed today 49-21-1 in the Assembly and 24-16 in the Senate.
“Putting the issue to a referendum is both sensible and equitable. While not our preferred method of legislating, public questions allow voters to affirm or deny massive shifts in public policy,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said in a statement after the vote.
“The time to end the prohibition of adult-use cannabis is now. Along with enabling legislation yet to be worked out, New Jersey would become the next state to ensure a safe, highly regulated cannabis industry. The decision is now in the hands of the November 2020 electorate.”
Lawmakers tried in March, and failed in dramatic fashion, to pass legalization through the legislature, which Cannabis Wire covered.
At the time, Governor Phil Murphy said, “Certainly I am disappointed, but we are not defeated. Our current drug policy regime has stifled opportunity and economic development,” adding, “We will stay in the fight and we will ultimately get there.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney said senators were up and down during the last few weeks of negotiations on legalization. “It was like Whac-A-Mole ” he said, of changing votes. “We’ll figure out what we can change to change minds.”
Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement that while the organization is “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.”
Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and its affiliate, New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy (NJ-RAMP) said in a statement ahead of the vote, “In the middle of a crippling vaping crisis, it is unconscionable to change the New Jersey constitution to allow the commercial sales of unlimited potency THC products.” (No such proposal for unlimited potency products has been introduced.)