TRENTON, NJ — Today, the New Jersey state legislature delayed a key marijuana vote, possibly until November.
According to a February 2019 Monmouth University poll, 62 percent of New Jersey adults support legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, and 68 percent believe that legalizing marijuana would boost the state’s economy.
“Voters and lawmakers both agree that the practice of treating marijuana consumers as second-class citizens must end. Unfortunately, legislative intransigence regarding how best to create a regulatory framework has resulted in, at least for now, a continuation of the failed policy of marijuana criminalization in the Garden State,” said NORML’s Tyler McFadden.
“Criminalization is a policy that results in over 35,000 marijuana-related arrests annually in New Jersey — mostly for low-level marijuana possession. These arrests do not promote public safety, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and disproportionately impact the poor and communities of color. It is pivotal that leadership continues to move forward to address and enact needed marijuana law reforms in New Jersey, including efforts to expunge past low-level marijuana convictions,” she said.
“Finally, it should be acknowledged that, to date, no state has taken legislative action to regulate the adult use marijuana market. In every jurisdiction where regulations exist, they were enacted by a direct vote of the citizenry. Based on current polling in New Jersey, we have little doubt that, if provided the opportunity, Garden State voters would take similar action,” added McFadden.
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) issued a statement expressing a commitment to enacting a law legalizing marijuana in New Jersey.
“While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy,” Sweeney’s statement reads.
“Governor Murphy has shown real leadership in driving this issue. He worked with Speak Coughlin, with me, and with the bill’s sponsors and social justice advocates in a shared commitment to change failed drug laws and reform the criminal justice system,” he said.
“This fight is not over. We need to learn from this experience and continue to move forward. While this legislation is not advancing today, I remain committed to its passage. The Senate was very close to 21 votes and, with more education and advocacy; I believe we will get this legislation across the finish line,” Sweeney added.
According to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrests for the commission of violent crimes (518,617) in 2017. Of those arrested for marijuana crimes, just under 91 percent (599,000) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses, a slight increase over last year’s annual totals. Total marijuana arrests in 2017 increased for the second straight year, after having fallen for nearly a decade.
Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 73 million Americans now reside in the ten states where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional fifteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) oil for therapeutic purposes.
Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. The percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.
Majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) back legalization. The results of a 2017 nationwide Gallup poll similarly found majority support among all three groups.
To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, oryouth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.
Specifically, a 2019 report estimates that over 211,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.
Tags: 2019 Legislation, New Jersey marijuana legalization, NJ AB 4497, NJ SB 2703, Steve Sweeney