New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy and state Democratic legislative leaders have forged an agreement that could result in the state legalizing recreational marijuana use by the end of 2019.
According to a report in The New York Times, if the agreement wins enough support in the state legislature, New Jersey could be next to enable legal use of pot. The agreement lays out how marijuana would be taxed and sets the ground rules for a committee that would regulate it. The news marks a big step forward in the governor’s vow to introduce recreational marijuana into New Jersey. The market is valued at around $50 billion, noted the report.
While New Jersey is now run by Democrats who have embraced progressive issues including raising the minimum hourly wage, lawmakers have been divided when it comes to allowing recreational use of pot. Some of the state’s African American lawmakers aren’t keen on supporting legalization because they are concerned about the impact it could have on low-income neighborhoods. Meanwhile, most of the Republicans in both chambers are against legalization.
“The most important aspect of it is we don’t necessarily have all the votes lined up yet,” said Nicholas Scutari, a state senator in New Jersey who has been the architect of a bill to legalize marijuana, according to the news report. He did say he is optimistic that it will pass: “We’re still trying to machine this to get it over the goal line, but I think we’re all working really hard to get this done. We’ve said all along that this is not a light lift.”
While Democrats up for reelection may be concerned about voting for legalization, a new poll from Monmouth University shows there is widespread support. According to The New York Times, the poll revealed that 62 percent of residents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, with 32 percent against it.
“A major reason for public support of the current proposal is the expectation it will boost tax revenues,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The pressure is on, with nearby states also looking into legalization. New Jersey will need to stay ahead of the curve if it wants to maximize the expected economic benefits.”