June was a hectic month for Trenton, NJ lawmakers. They had to scramble to get the budget passed, thus narrowly avoiding government shutdown. However, glaringly missing from the budget was any form of cannabis legalization legislation.
A big part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s platform was the legalization of cannabis in the Garden State; it was part of his “first 100 days” plan. He did expand the medical marijuana program to encapsulate common cannabis relieved conditions, such as anxiety and chronic pain, yet NJ is still without fully legalized weed. Why?
For one thing, cities and towns aren’t lining up to support the idea. Over 20 towns have taken action to keep cannabis related businesses outside their borders, while just three towns have said that they would welcome a recreational marketplace.
New Jerseyans may have turned on a dime, having elected the democrat Murphy after eight long years of conservative Chris Christie, who did everything in his power to keep medical marijuana from flourishing and to keep recreational from happening. However, other state leaders are not onboard with Murphy’s liberal stance on cannabis, and their votes matter.
There just aren’t enough pro-pot votes in the Legislature to have New Jersey open the doors to recreational cannabis yet. Still, no matter one’s politics, it is mostly agreed upon that the social aspects of legalization should stand or be reformed. For example, people should not be getting arrested for simple possession, especially when the arrest rates are disproportionate between white and black and brown persons.
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Though legalization didn’t make it into the June budget, the fact of the matter is that it didn’t have to. A bill in support of legalized cannabis can be signed at any time, if only NJ state lawmakers could agree on the terms.
Last month, a bill that combined further expansion of the medical marijuana program and a laid out plan for legalization was submitted, however, Sen. Joseph Vitale, (D) Middlesex made it clear that he would not sign any such bill. New Jersey residents can email or call Vitale’s office to express their opinion on the matter and hopefully change his heart. Every voice is a potential difference and another bit closer to cannabis freedom and normalization.
Gov. Murphy says that he hopes to sign a cannabis legalization bill by January 1, 2019.