New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is pushing for cannabis decriminalization in the state “as soon as possible” as lawmakers move toward putting the legalization question to voters in the 2020 General Election, NJ.com reports.
“Decriminalization of adult-use marijuana cannot be our long-term solution, but we now must turn to it for critical short-term relief while we await a ballot measure on legalization next November. Maintaining a status quo that sees roughly 600 individuals, disproportionately people of color, arrested in New Jersey every week for low-level drug offenses is wholly unacceptable.” – Murphy, in a statement, via NJ.com
According to Federal Bureau of Investigation data outlined in the report, New Jersey police arrest more people for cannabis possession than every state except Texas and New York, and black people are arrested at a rate three times higher than white people, despite people of both races using cannabis at similar rates.
Murphy included legalization in his campaign platform, but legislative leaders were unable to wrangle the votes in the Legislature – which is controlled by Democrats – before the end of last session. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who recently introduced a resolution to add legalization to 2020 ballots in New Jersey and supports adult-use legalization, said in May that he was very skeptical” of decriminalization plans in lieu of broad legalization. Sweeney said he fears that decriminalizing cannabis would lead to “having dealers on the corner where the worst that’s gonna happen is they get a $50 ticket.”
Sweeney told NJ.com that he is “open to looking” at decriminalization but he needs first to “understand how it’s gonna look.”
“My largest concern is that we just make the black market that much stronger,” he said in the report. “But I’m open to doing something because it’s gonna be a year before we get this done. We’ve got to figure something out.”
In July, after legalization talked stalled, Murphy signed a bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis industry.