Politics

Top New Jersey Lawmakers Delay Vote to Legalize Marijuana in the State

NJ Marijuana VoteState Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), scrapped a plan to vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey, on Oct. 29.

The two top lawmakers in the New Jersey state Legislature said that the reason for the delay is because they remain at odds with Governor Phil Murphy over what the law should say.

Sweeney and Coughlin also stressed that “very few” points of contention are left to work out with the Murphy administration, and remain optimistic that they could reach an agreement and vote to pass the bill before the end of the year.

There has been push for the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. Murphy made the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana a central part of his platform when he was running for Governor in 2017.

One of his main reasons is to help raise tax revenue and to help eradicate the black market for weed within the state.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released on Oct. 30 shows that not only do residents in the state want legal marijuana, they also believe that low-level marijuana convictions should be cleared and that legalization would be good for the economy.

“As marijuana legalization approaches reality in the state, New Jerseyans are fully on board,” said Ashley Koning, Director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers.

“Support has built up slowly in the past five decades, with this being the first time a majority has ever sided with legalization,” she explained.

The University’s Polling Institute from earlier this year also found similar results, showing that 60 percent of New Jersey residents support legalization.

Kenneth Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology, and an associate professor of political science, also explained that making marijuana legal for recreational use within the state could help the state save money in regards to the conviction of crimes involving marijuana.

 For instance, taxes would no longer be going to prisons, and police officers would no longer be spending as much time or effort to catch people in non-violent acts involving the potentially legal drug.

Junior marketing student Adrian Pacheco believes that marijuana should be legal at this point, noting that the use of marijuana is not comparable to the use of other drugs such as cocaine. He also stated that New Jersey already taxes weed for medicinal use, so there is no reason not to tax weed for recreational use as well.

Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science agreed with Mitchell in terms of decriminalizing weed. He also mentioned the idea of there being a middle ground in place of a bill that would completely legalized recreational use of marijuana.

He proposed paying a fine for using recreational marijuana rather than going to prison, as is often the current case.

Mitchell continued, and noted that just because marijuana would become legal in the state, not everyone in the state is going to start smoking marijuana recreationally.

He also mentioned how the culture behind doing drugs wouldn’t change; parents would probably still teach their children drug safety. “Do you know a parent who does not smoke pot and would answer yes to the question, ‘Do you want your kids to smoke pot,” he asked.

Mitchell stated that he would be surprised if it doesn’t pass, and that prohibiting something only encourages children to “rebel.”

More states have legalized both the medicinal and recreational uses of marijuana, since Colorado did so back in 2014, with only nine states and Washington, D.C. to have legalized it completely. New Jersey’s proposed tax rate on the sales of marijuana would be the lowest in the country.

New Jersey towns have already opposed such a bill The Freehold Township Committee unanimously voted earlier last month to ban marijuana sales, both medicinal and recreational, causing potential trouble to a statewide bill passing.

IMAGE TAKEN from NJ.com