The Northeast of the country has been on a slow but steady road to legalizing marijuana for years. In the last 6 months some massive strides have been made in this direction. Last November 8th, Maine and Massachusetts elected to legalize the plant for adult recreational use. The states were joined by California and Nevada. There are currently a total of 8 states with legal adult use of marijuana, including Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C., making 20 percent of the country a marijuana safe zone. Now more states in the area are looking to legalize; only lawmakers are looking to bypass a public vote and elect to legalize the plant through legislature instead.
“People Are Smoking It Anyway”
Today, New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari announced the Democratic sponsored bill that could make New Jersey into the 9th state to formally legalize marijuana. “The national trend is toward legalization,” Scutari told NJ Advance Media on Friday. “It’s absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway.” According to the most recent surveys, 60 percent of U.S. citizens are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use.
Governor’s Signature a Tall Order
In order for this bill to pass, it would need to be signed by both houses of the state legislature which are dominated by the Democratic Party. It would then need to be signed into law by the governor which presents quite a problem right now. The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has been a longtime opponent of marijuana and is highly unlikely to sign the legislation into law. Christie called marijuana a “gateway drug”, implying that it could lead people towards more serious and dangerous substances. He claims that the Democrats in favor of legalizing marijuana are willing to poison the state’s children and collect “blood money.” Given that marijuana is safer and healthier to consume than cigarettes and alcohol, the statement was unsettling for many marijuana advocates.
Better Odds in Vermont
Vermont lawmakers are also on the verge of legalizing marijuana through legislature rather than a vote. Both the House and the Senate approved a bill that would make it legal for adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 1/8 of concentrates per person and for individuals to grow up to 2 mature plants. The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Phil Scott to decide on whether to approve the law or veto it. It’s unclear which direction Scott will go, but he has expressed that he believes that the legalization of marijuana is inevitable. He is working to be sure that the state has the best law in place before approving the bill.
Christie’s run as governor comes to an end next January with a new governor being voted on in November. It appears that the current front-runner is Phil Murphy, a Democrat who is also in favor of legalization. At worst, it seems that New Jersey has less than a year to go before marijuana legalization is able to be pushed forward.