Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy accepted his party’s nomination Tuesday night and promised in his victory speech to shed many of the policies of the Chris Christie era — including the legalization of marijuana.
“People in New Jersey are demanding change and I am here to change things,” Murphy said. “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana. And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
That proclamation is a stark change from current Gov. Chris Christie’s position on cannabis. Christie has steadfastly considered cannabis a gateway to addiction and more dangerous drugs. He has called legalizing marijuana “beyond stupidity.”
In a speech last month, Christie said the legalization push “is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK. People like … Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway,” Christie said. “Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis. Let’s legalize cocaine. Let’s legalize angel dust. Let’s legalize all of it. What’s the difference?”
Polling in New Jersey shows that nearly 60 percent support regulating and legalizing cannabis.
Which is exactly what Murphy emphasized in his speech. He also promised to “reform our criminal justice system, end mass incarceration and eliminate prisons for profit.”
Murphy will now face Lt. Gov. Kim Guadago, who won the Republican primary, in the general election in November.
Guadago, though not not a supporter of full legalization, has come out in favor of decriminalizing cannabis. “We should decriminalize it,” she she said. “Because no one should suffer because of the color of their skin or because of their social background or because they were picked up with a small quantity.”
For cannabis consumers and activists, both candidates offer a much brighter future for the herb than Christie.
New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, a pro-cannabis group, is supporting the candidate that will legalize: “These laws have failed New Jerseyans for far too long. Anyone who hopes to become governor must be committed to ending prohibition and support replacing it with a safe and responsible legal marijuana system for adults. We look forward to all prospective candidates — regardless of political party — announcing their support for marijuana legalization,” the group said in a statement.