New Jersey Could Legalize Marijuana by April 2018

It appears that the Garden State may well become very, very green, very, very soon. Following the victory of Democrat Phil Murphy in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in New Jersey, the legalization of marijuana could well become a reality throughout the state, and quickly too. The new governor, who won a landslide majority vote, built much of his campaign on the promise to legalize cannabis.

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Murphy said in his victory speech at the democratic primary election in June. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is both right and just.” State Senator Nicholas Scutari was the one to introduce a legalization bill into the New Jersey Senate.

However, the bill to legalize cannabis in June had no hope of passing with Republican Governor Chris Christie at the helm, but that narrative changes completely with his departure and Murphy’s arrival. The new governor’s proposal would legalize even recreational use across the state of New Jersey, which is a mere stone’s throw from Manhattan, and he will not be doing it all on his own, either.

New Jersey Legislature is now completely under the full control of Democrats, and they are making the legalization issue a crucial priority going into their agenda for next year. Earlier this week, Stephen Sweeney, the New Jersey Senate President, told the Washington Examiner that he has full confidence that Murphy will sign a bill into law that would legalize marijuana before April next year.

“This is something Murphy supports and I support it, and I do not think anyone is going to go out of their way to embarrass the governor,” Sweeney said in his talks with the magazine. “It is a priority and it is something we are going to need to do.” If the legalization bill passes, New Jersey will become the ninth state to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the United States.

It would also become the very first state to legalize marijuana through legislative processes, instead of asking voters in a ballot initiative. However, even if Murphy does sign a legalization bill into law within the first few months of next year, it may still take a very long time before it goes into effect. Lawyer Cristina Buccola, owner of a boutique law firm serving clients in the marijuana industry, had this to say:

“Even though a marijuana legalization bill could be passed in the first 100 days of Murphy’s administration, it does not mean that we will immediately see an adult-use program,” Buccola explained. “Even with an aggressive timeline, it would likely take 18 months after the bill passes before adults who are 21-years and older could start consuming cannabis.” Even that may be overly optimistic.

Just the simple idea of legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes appeared an unattainable pipe dream a decade ago, but now, it seems the nation has become significantly more tolerant when it comes to allowing the population to get stoned, perhaps because of marijuana’s medical benefits and a more widespread acceptance of it among civil society.

Recreational use is already legal in eight other states, including the District of Columbia. A further 19 have made the use of medical marijuana legal for patients, and a new Gallup poll in October showed a record majority of 64 percent of American citizens supportive of legalizing marijuana. While New Jersey is moving quickly to legalize cannabis next year, the New York State Senate is still sitting with a similar bill since last January already.

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