The decision on the legalization of recreational marijuana will depend on New Jersey residents and they will be able to express their decision on the issue on ballot for the 2020 elections.
With a majority of more than three-fifths in the state Senate, 26-16, and in the Assembly, 49-29 with one abstention, the referendum was passed, proposing to amend the state constitution with the “New Jersey Marijuana Legalization” amendment.
Residents will be asked on the ballot question if they approve the New Jersey constitution amendment to legalize “cannabis” for those users at least 21-years-old.
If residents pass the constitutional amendment, New Jersey would become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, following in the footsteps of nearby Vermont and Massachusetts.
The amendment states that the same state commission that currently monitors the use of medical marijuana would also supervise the “new, personal use cannabis market.” Recreational marijuana products would be liable to 6.65% of New Jersey sales tax, and local taxes may also apply to marijuana products.
The fact that it won more than three-fifths of the vote in both the Senate and the Assembly, allows it to be incorporated into the November ballot. In a scenario with a narrower margin of votes, the process would have required a second vote in the 2020 session. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature is not necessary for its approval.
Governor Murphy´s attempts
Legalization of recreational marijuana was one of Governor Murphy’s main proposals during his 2017 campaign. By the end of 2018, during his first budget proposal address, he announced that he would legalize marijuana. However, his proposal was not as successful as expected.
Last spring, Murphy and lawmakers dropped legislation that would have legalized marijuana. In May, Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced the the bill was put on hold as it could not secure enough votes and instead would be put on the 2020 election ballots for a public vote.
Sweeney expects the ballot proposal to pass given the overpowering support in the state to legalize recreational marijuana.
Fruqan Mouzon, a leading cannabis attorney and the former general counsel for the state Senate Majority Office said “The most recent poll found that 62% of New Jersey residents are in favor of ending marijuana prohibition in this state and there is reason to believe that support is growing,”
As for Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex declared about putting the issue to a referendum “is both sensible and equitable. While not our preferred method of legislating, public questions allow voters to affirm or deny massive shifts in public policy.”
“The time to end the prohibition of adult-use cannabis is now,” he said.