New Jersey lawmakers have failed to make recreational marijuana a reality in the state, as a pivotal vote on legislation was called off Monday. Despite concerted efforts by Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic state lawmakers, the votes were not there to pass the bill, according to reports.
“While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy,” State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said in a statement to NJ.com.
This renders as a devastating blow to Murphy, who made marijuana legalization a key issue during his gubernatorial campaign and the benefit of full Democratic control in the State Assembly and Senate. But his push for legalization stirred infighting amongst state Democrats, with some African-American lawmakers criticizing the bill for introducing harm to public safety for communities of color.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act, which would have legalized and taxed cannabis in the state, was one of the more progressive marijuana bill the country has yet seen. Not only would the bill expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program—making it tax free and protecting parents from losing custody of their children—it would quickly expunge the marijuana convictions of hundreds of thousands in New Jersey.
Another vote to legalize in the state won’t come until after the November election, Sweeney has previously stated, but reports indicate a vote could come as soon as May. A recent poll showed that a majority of New Jersey voters support recreational marijuana legalization.
“This is not an issue that’s going away,” Sweeney said. “Marijuana will get passed in the state of New Jersey one way or another.”