New Jersey lawmakers on Monday introduced a resolution that would put cannabis legalization in the state to voters as a ballot question in 2020. In a joint statement, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and Senator Nicholas Scutari (D), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said legislative leaders attempted to pass the bill through the legislature but that “the votes just aren’t there.”
“This initiative will bring cannabis out of the underground so that it can be controlled to ensure a safe product, strictly regulated to limit use to adults and have sales subjected to the sales tax. We will have the Legislature vote on the plan during the current legislative session and expect the proposal to be on the ballot in 2020, when voter turnout will be maximized for the national election. We are confident it will be approved by the Senate, the Assembly and the voters.” – Sweeney and Scutari, in a press release
According to the statement, the legalization plan will include social justice measures that help “correct social and legal injustices that have had a discriminatory impact on communities of color.”
Legalization via the legislature seemed like a slam dunk in the state, where it has the support of key lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. A legalization bill made its way through two legislative committees in the spring and had the 41 votes required to pass in the House but only had the support of 17 or 18 senators. The lack of support in the Senate forced lawmakers to table the bill.
In May, Sweeney said he planned on putting the issue to voters in the 2020 General Election but said that Murphy unilaterally expanding the state’s medical cannabis program hampered the governor’s ability to sway those who opposed legalization.
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