enabling legislation

History is about to be made on Election Day in New Jersey, with adult-use cannabis legalization likely to pass despite COVID complications.

Long lines of people seeking to do their civic duty in voting booths are not expected today.  Due to COVID, most people have voted by mail already. Governor Phil Murphy announced on Twitter yesterday that 90 percent of people who voted in 2016 had already voted.

He also sent out another Tweet in favor of legalization:

For those who did not receive their ballot by mail, prefer the thrill of voting in-person, among other reasons, traditional voting is still possible. People can go to polling stations to vote in person if they have not voted by mail already. In a twist of events, these will be the last votes counted while the votes by mail will be counted first.

The fact that the question was on the back of the ballot and people needed to turn the page to vote “Yes” by Election Day is an unknown factor in predicting the outcome. Regardless, many are comfortable predicting they will be celebrating tonight.

NJ CAN 2020 Cautiously Optimistic on Victory

NJ CAN 2020 Campaign Manager Axel Owen said that NJ CAN is “cautiously optimistic” of a victory tonight.

He reported that some experts believe that 72 percent of eligible voters are expected to vote in the election, which improves their chances of winning.

“We knew this would be a turnout game, and we went in with 3.6 million votes,” he said.

Unfortunately, there will be no results calculated until the polls close tonight at 8 pm on Election Day. Owen explained it makes sense that the results of mail in-ballot are not pre-tabulated because a leak of the results would cause an uproar. The physical processing of tabulating paper ballots might take some time.

“I’m hoping for sooner rather later,” he said regarding results.

Outside of the upheaval caused by COVID, nothing unexpected happened during the campaign.

“We took them well,” Owen said regarding the curveballs thrown by COVID.

“It’s been great,” NJ CAN 2020 Owen said regarding the race before Election Day.

He emphasized that the cause is close to his heart. He said his friend was arrested on a simple possession charge, and his life derailed, including losing his scholarship.

What Happens After Election Day

State Senate Judiciary Chair Nick Scutari (D-Union) seems eager to launch cannabis sales soon after the vote.

It makes sense that the existing dispensaries would be allowed to sell adult-use cannabis. That has happened elsewhere. But elsewhere also had a more robust medical cannabis program before adult-use sales began. That’s a low bar, though.

Everyone agrees New Jersey will not have the infrastructure for an adult-use market for six to eighteen months, with many saying a year is likely.

Dispensaries would have to certify that they can meet patient adult-use demand without patient supply suffering. It only takes about three months to grow a crop of cannabis. In theory, they could begin growing a new crop immediately.

Most people, though, are not voting merely for the continuation of the worst practices of the medical cannabis program to continue.

The problem with the vote is while NJ CAN 2020 has been pushing that there should be a just implementation, there’s no guarantee of that. The drumbeat has been fairly loud, though on the problems with the dispensaries on why they cannot be continued in the adult-use market.

The high costs for medical cannabis would be solved in part if the lawsuits against the NJ Department of Health ( NJDOH) were settled. That also needs to be settled to establish the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which is supposed to regulate adult-use cannabis.

There are three days in the legislative calendar in November in which the implementation bill could get a hearing this Thursday, November 5th, Monday the 9th, or the following Monday the16th.  The 9th seems most likely.

Since that is the case, advocates for a just implementation should be prepared to rally their forces to make their voices heard. That would include calling their own State Senator’s office and the offices of Scutari along with State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester).

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