Super-majorities of the New Jersey Assembly and Senate decided today to place a marijuana legalization ballot question before voters in 2020.
Commenting on today’s legislative action, Garden State NORML Executive Director Charlana McKeithen said: “We support any move beyond prohibition. Now marijuana consumers and anyone who supports reform can cast a vote for freedom.”
The question will appear as a constitutional amendment on the November election ballot. Senators voted 24 to 16 in favor of the effort, while members of the Assembly voted 49 to 24. State law requires that three-fifths of lawmakers in both chambers approve a resolution to place an amendment on the ballot.
The ballot question will read: “Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called ‘cannabis’? Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market. Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.”
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy had previously backed a legislative effort to regulate the personal use and retail sale of cannabis, but the proposed measure never received a Senate floor vote.
“Since the state legislature has been deferring on their responsibility to pass a comprehensive legalization bill, it seems that it will be up to New Jersey voters to demand a new marijuana policy that respects personal freedoms and protects civil liberties,” stated NORML Executive Director and New Jersey native Erik Altieri. “There will be a robust and passionate grassroots campaign to ensure voters are informed and turn out en masse to approve this proposed amendment, the message from voters on Election Day 2020 will be clear and unambiguous: prohibition in the Garden State has been an utter failure and the citizens of the state demand a move to full legalization.”
NORML Northeast Political Assistant Tyler McFadden said that expeditious legislative action would have been preferable, but nonetheless expressed confidence that “New Jersey voters will overwhelmingly support the legalization of cannabis in the Garden State” in 2020. In the interim, she expressed the need for lawmakers to decriminalize low-level cannabis possession offenses.
According to a statewide Monmouth University poll, 62 percent of New Jersey adults support legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
If voters in 2020 approve the amendment, lawmakers will still have to finalize its language prior to implementing the new law.
An analysis of nationwide arrest data published last year reported that New Jersey was third in the nation in total marijuana arrests and second only to Wyoming in per capita marijuana arrests.