Phil Murphy emphasized the social justice benefits, as well as the financial ones, to legalizing adult-use marijuana in New Jersey.
Add New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to the growing list of state lawmakers positioning marijuana legalization as a quick fix to struggling economies. Murphy also emphasized the social justice benefit legalizing would induce, calling the act “an incredibly smart thing to do.”
“We’re not inventing marijuana,” he said during a radio interview Tuesday with the Jim Kerr Rock & Roll Morning Show. “It exists.”
The looming financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic means the state will need to find ways to innovate moving forward. A co-host on the program suggested cannabis and Murphy agreed, saying he’s “been on that from day one.” He added marijuana’s importance in criminal justice reform — a Black person is 3.5 times more likely to get arrested for cannabis possession in New Jersey than a white person, despite similar rates of use.
“It’s got a huge social justice piece for me,” Murphy said. “The overwhelming percentage of persons nailed in our criminal justice system are persons of color. It’s a no-brainer in that respect. It’s a job creator, it’s a tax revenue raiser, it checks a lot of boxes. I hope we’ll get there sooner than later.”
Murphy has pushed cannabis legalization multiple times through the Democrat-controlled Legislature, but has been unable to secure the necessary votes. A proposal by Senate President Stephen Sweeney instead put the measure in voters’ hands, who will decide on adult-use cannabis this November.
A recent Monmouth poll found that 6 out of 10 voters would approve the measure, but questions remain around regulation and sales. Less than 50% of people believe retail cannabis sales would be a good idea. A growing number of New Jersey towns have already passed bans on recreational marijuana sales, though the act is still illegal.
Bipartisan lawmakers in New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania have also suggested legalizing recreational cannabis as a post-pandemic boon. One conservative Republican strategist in Pennsylvania said legal marijuana was “inevitable, so why not get ahead of the curve and do it now.”