Marijuana has won big in New Jersey this week as Democrat Phil Murphy defeated Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in Tuesday’s election. Murphy will take over from long time prohibitionist Gov. Chris Christie, who had made it clear that he would never allow marijuana to be legalized during his term. Christie even went so far as to promise to veto any legal marijuana bills that would pass. Now, come January 2018, he will be succeeded by Murphy who is outwardly in favor of ending prohibition and Senate President Stephen Sweeney has made it clear that as soon as the governor gets settled, they will be actively moving forward with those plans.
Scutari’s Marijuana Bill for New Jersey
Sen. Nicholas Scutari has already sponsored a recreational marijuana bill. According to New Jersey Politics Scutari led a delegation of New Jersey lawmakers to Colorado to explore and investigate the recreational marijuana industry in a state where it is legal. Lawmakers were incredibly impressed with how well functioning the industry in Colorado is and the many positive changes it has been able to contribute to the community.
The Benefits of Legalization
Legalization in Colorado has led to almost 29,000 new jobs, reduced drug arrests by 80 percent as well as a reduction in opioid related overdoses and deaths. It has generated approximately $135 million in tax revenue that has gone towards building schools and other services for the community. Teen use has not risen and there appears to be no visual impact of legalization. “These are neighborhoods you would be proud to say you represented or lived in,” says Scutari.
“We Intend to Move Quickly”
Sweeney was also enthusiastic after the visit which included meeting with public health officials and lawmakers, business owners, and visits to dispensaries and manufacturers. “I was on board before we went but I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It’s safe, it’s well managed. Colorado has done an amazing job. This is a game changer for the state. I’m committed to it. We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it,” said Sweeney.
About Phil Murphy
Murphy is a former U.S. ambassador to Germany who has been very vocal about wanting to end prohibition in New Jersey. “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana. And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just,” he said in his primary victory election speech in June according to Marijuana Moment. Murphy appears to be committed to putting a stop to mass incarceration and eliminate “prisons for profit.” He has made it clear that the legalization of recreational marijuana is an essential part of this process.
Should New Jersey legalize recreational marijuana as quickly as they are planning to, it would be the ninth state to legalize the plant for personal recreational use. Other states are set to follow as many contemplate legalizing the plant through legislature rather than a public vote. According to the most recent polls, 64 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing the plant for personal use.