January 14, 2019

March 07, 2018, New Jersey 

With transition in the Governor’s office in New Jersey earlier this year, cannabis advocates were hoping for sweeping cannabis reforms. And they had a reason for it. Democrats made cannabis reform an important talking point in the gubernatorial race. Democratic nominee Phil Murphy was known for his liberal and marijuana-friendly beliefs.  

It was indeed a step up because the then governor Chris Christie was notorious for his animosity against cannabis and its legalization. During his campaign, Murphy hinted that his administration would move to legalize recreational marijuana within his first 100 days in office.  

This timeline is going to expire on April 26 and it’s not likely that Murphy will be able to keep his promise. As usual, a lot of impediments have gotten in the way of recreational legalization. Democrats have divided on the issue while the opposition to the reforms has also become more stringent. Truth be told, having legalization in such short time period was always a long shot. It was more of a captivating election slogan, particularly to contest the beliefs of the then governor. 

Governor Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie – Image powered by Edition.cnn.com

However, the state’s abysmal MMJ program is more likely to see long-overdue improvements. The state assembly has also taken the first step regarding cannabis reforms where its oversight committee has heard the experts on the issue of legalization.  

Moreover, a Democratic legislator introduced a legislation bill soon after the inauguration of Murphy. The bill entails the legalization of cannabis infused products and immature plants for adults over 21. The taxation provision of the bill promotes early participation in the program. According to the tax structure of the bill, it will increase from 7 to 25 percent over five years. Nonetheless, the bill hasn’t received the reception many cannabis advocates hoped for. 

A Conflict within the Ranks  

Legalization of recreational marijuana is also being delayed because all is not well within the ranks of the state’s Democrats. The most powerful democrat from New Jersey Steve Sweeney is eyeing the next gubernatorial election and it has already created an understated friction between him and Murphy. Other Democratic lawmakers are also reluctant in taking a definitive position on the issue of legalization.  

The most powerful democrat from New Jersey Steve Sweeney
The most powerful democrat from New Jersey Steve Sweeney – Image powered by Njmonthly.com

On the other hand, public opinion on the issue of legalization also doesn’t have an explicit tilt towards either side. A poll shows that nearly 42 percent of the residents are in favor of legalization while equal number of people wants to persist with the current order and few of them want decriminalization. A decriminalization bill is also pushed on the assembly’s floor by African-American senators. Cannabis advocates are seeing it as a thwarting move to spoil the progress on blanket legalization.  

However, some experts are seeing this move as a silver lining. According to them the landscape regarding cannabis has changed so much that instead of an outright ban, the issues of decriminalization and expansion of MMJ program are being discussed. Many people, who were earlier not in favor of decriminalization, have also conceded their unyielding position. 

Marijuana reformers now anticipate that cannabis will be an important issue in Murphy’s first budget speech.

Marijuana stays in the news, and Alice is always ready to keep us updated. A world traveler and lover of freedom, Alice knows what is going on, no matter where she roams. She specializes in marijuana legalization stories across the globe, with up to date... [read more]


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