It’s been well over 100 days and Gov. Phil Murphy still hasn’t managed to legalize marijuana. It was a big part of his campaign rhetoric, but it was also a big part of his budget. Just recently, he had a projected $60 million in tax revenue mapped out with a January 1 start, but the budget that went through in June contained nothing of the sort.
This is not due to a lack of a bill, which would make more sense and be all the more frustrating, but it simply boils down to Murphy and others overshooting a timeline. There just wasn’t enough initial support in the state senate to pass a recreational cannabis bill.
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Senate president Steve Sweeney (D) Gloucester had encouraging words for cannabis enthusiasts across the state, however. He said that lawmakers are “rounding the corner on marijuana” and said that he and the speaker were committed to a goal of having the marijuana bills settled by the end of this summer.
Sweeney also said that “now that the budget’s out of the way” that they should be able to focus on the issue of recreational cannabis without all the background noise. Sen. Joe Vitale, (D) Middlesex was completely opposed to the bill proposal that combined expanding medical and creating recreational at the same time, but he is now reportedly in talks with other senators and there is hope that he can be brought around on the legalization issue.
Though Murphy hasn’t been able to legalize weed yet, he did expand the medical marijuana program to the point that existing cannabis dispensaries are having trouble keeping up with demand for the herb. This could be an issue for legalization going forward, as it would be a relatively simple fix to have recreational sales in the existing medical dispensaries, but not if there isn’t enough marijuana to go around.
For the legalization argument, it does help that NJ’s neighbors are either onboard or discussing cannabis legalization, recreationally or medically. New York state, now long overdue to be at the cutting edge of this industry, has yet to legalize. But it’s a hot topic and probably coming down the pike. Just like we’ve seen with Jersey’s turn, it will just a matter of time and diligence.