The Race for Legalization Heats Up
Lawmakers are leaning towards cannabis legalization in New Jersey. With the upcoming race for governor in the state, advocates and activists alike are hoping for the decriminalization of recreational cannabis use as early as 2018. While opposition from the Trump administration remains strong, many have turned towards the stances of the candidates as the true litmus test on the issue.
Candidates on the Issue
Unlike previous elections, bipartisanship does not seem to have a hand in favor over marijuana legalization in the state. While the majority of lawmakers support sanctions, whether or not it’s for recreational or medical use remains divisive.
As expected, the Democratic front-runner in the race, Phil Murphy, is a supporter of decriminalization. Unsurprisingly, many of his fellow primary opponents, including former Clinton administration official Jim Johnson, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, and Senator Ray Lesniak are in agreement. In the case of Democrats, the key difference falls between a structure for full-scale legalization and general decriminalization.
When it comes to the GOP candidates, it’s a different matter. Most are amenable to a certain degree. As it stands, Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli is the most lenient on the issue, calling for decriminalization of small amounts. Local Commissioner Steve Rogers is pro-legalization when it comes to the use of medical marijuana.
Only Senator Kim Guadagno remains silent on the matter. Her spokesperson declined to disclose the Republican front-runner’s official position on the issue.
Conservative Opposition to Legalization
While current candidates in the race might think differently than their predecessors, the legacy of the GOP’s stance on cannabis legislation is still present in the state. Republican NJ governor Chris Christie has staunchly opposed legalization during his tenure. The governor will leave office this upcoming January.
Sitting duck politicians aren’t the only ones who are against these legislative changes. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has publically advertised his distaste for legalization.
A New Horizon
As the tide turns for pro-legalization supporters in New Jersey, lawmakers are hard at work on their side to ensure a sea change. Among these is Senator Nicholas Scutari, an NJ Democrat who has been heading the front for legalization for years. According to AP, Scutari is optimistic about introducing newly proposed legislation on the Senate floor soon.
Scott Rudder, the president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, voiced that legalization finally has a “solid shot.”
The proof? Numbers.
“In 2016, Colorado cannabis businesses generated $1.3 billion in revenue and collected $200 million in taxes,” Rudder wrote in an op-ed for the Star-Ledger this past March. “This includes the nearly 30,000 jobs that are directly tied to the industry.”
According to Rudder, the state’s population, which numbers 3.5 million more people than Colorado, is also a promising economic factor.
Primaries in New Jersey are scheduled for June 6. The general election will take place in November.