Recreational marijuana could be legal in New Jersey next year

Glenn Townes | 11/26/2017, 11:46 a.m.
While it may be crass to promote grass, that's exactly what Governor-elect Phil Murphy did throughout his campaign—making the prospect ...
This photo shows a Cannabis dispensary in Denver. - Wikipedia photo

While it may be crass to promote grass, that's exactly what Governor-elect Phil Murphy did throughout his campaign—making the prospect of legalized recreational marijuana becoming law in New Jersey as early as next year, according to dozens of state and local legislators.

The long debated piece of legislation that would legalize, regulate and of course, tax pot could hit the desk of Murphy within his first 100 days in office and become law shortly thereafter. In a statement earlier this year, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union said, “I can say affirmatively that by 2018, we will have legalized marijuana in the state of New Jersey. And Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, said in addition to making the move to legalize marijuana, “We would provide pardons and amnesty to those people who are suffering {criminal related drug offenses}get on with their lives.” An even bigger voice echoing similar sentiments is Senator Cory Booker who said New Jersey could learn a lot from the weed friendly states of Colorado and Washington. “Those states have taken the drug out of the hands of the drug underground and made it into legal and revenue generating businesses,” he said. Marijuana has been legal in Washington since 2012 and Colorado since 2014. Opponents of the measure contend legalized marijuana will foster illicit activity, including an increase in the number of unscrupulous doctors that randomly and unnecessarily write prescriptions for it.

Throughout his campaign, Governor-elect Murphy—a former executive with investment giant Goldman Sachs, advocated the legalization of pot and said it could be the source of thousands of revenue generating related businesses. He said legalized marijuana could generate more than $300 million in annual tax revenue for state coffers. In addition, he said the widespread use of pot could offer a viable alternative to New Jersey's epidemic opioid crisis. “There's a fair and growing amount of research that suggests that it actually, contrary to being a gateway drug, can be a weapon in the opioid push back,” he said.

In New Jersey, the medical marijuana program took effect in 2010 under the administration of former governor Jon Corzine. However, it took more than two years for state officials in the administration of Chris Christie to issue a facility permit to grow pot. Currently there are about 15,000 patients registered in the state medical marijuana program and there are five dispensaries sprinkled across the state.