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New Jersey History Made with Adult-use Cannabis Legalization

Voters approved adult-use New Jersey cannabis legalization by a significant margin, thus ending prohibition in the Garden State and furthering social justice.

62.5 percent of precincts reported on November 4th at 1:05 AM. Support for cannabis reached 66.96 percent with 1,728,560 votes to 33.04 percent and 853,034 votes against legalization. While not all the votes have been counted, it would be impossible for prohibition to win.

NJ Cannabis Legalization Referendum Landslide

This is a landslide which makes a mandate. When a candidate wins by a landslide, it’s argued that voters approves the candidate’s agenda completely.

“Today, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis for adult use. This is a vital first step for shifting away from punitive cannabis prohibition. And toward a regulated market that prioritizes racial and social justice,” said ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist Ami Kachalia. She spoke on behalf of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR).

In the coming weeks, legislators must pass legislation to implement an adult-use cannabis market.

Cannabis Advocates Call for Progress

“We call on New Jersey legislators and the Governor to implement the vision of cannabis legalization that voters have pushed forward. One that begins to repair the harms of marijuana prohibition. And creates an accessible and inclusive new cannabis industry,” Kachalia said. “Lawmakers must include expungement, community reinvestment, and meaningful opportunities for those most harmed by unjust enforcement of marijuana laws.”

NJUMR is a wide coalition fighting for New Jersey cannabis legalization for adul use. It is led by the ALCU-NJ which includes the NJ NAACP, the Latino Action Network (which I represent full disclosure), Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR). The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Salvation and Social Justice, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

“Legislators must pass a robust decriminalization bill. To protect residents in the lead-up to full implementation of legalization, which will likely take months to put into place,” Kachalia said.

Social Justice and Cannabis

The NJUMR has been consistently leading the fight for a just adult-use New Jersey cannabis legalization in Trenton.

“New Jersey must stop the cannabis-related arrests that take place, on average, every fifteen minutes in our state. The voters have made clear that it is time to end unjust and unnecessary cannabis-related arrests,” Kachalia said.

Governor Phil Murphy tweeted his delight at adult-use New Jersey cannabis legalization winning.

The Long Road to New Jersey Cannabis Legalization

The fight for New Jersey cannabis legalization was long and bitter. Murphy ran for Governor in 2017 saying he would legalize cannabis in his first 100 days.

However the many long-standing members of the New Jersey legislature did not run on a similar platform. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) was enraged that Murphy did not support him against a Republican backed by the NJ Education Association teachers union. Sweeney worked with former Governor Chris Christie (R) to alter their pension plan against their wishes.

Thus the NJ Education Association was eager to be rid of Christie and Sweeney. They fully backed Murphy for Governor and Sweeney’s opponent. This set a very negative tone for a key relationship that harmed Murphy’s agenda.

Secondly, many other issues like the minimum wage, economic justice, and immigration reform festered under Christie. Advocates for those causes pressed Murphy and the legislature very hard. Thus cannabis reform was not Murhpy’s first priority.

To further complicate matters several legislators were not initially for New Jersey cannabis legalization. Some merely wanted to reform medical cannabis. Many others just preferred decriminalization.

Even with the referendum it may take a very long time before adult use cannabis is for sale in New Jersey.

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