Legal Cannabis for New Jersey May Be Revived Later this Year

New Jersey lawmakers are planning to try to legalize recreational cannabis once again, three months after Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced that he was ending his effort to pass recreational cannabis due to not receiving enough votes.

Sweeney said it would be up to the voters to decide whether cannabis would be legal during the November 2020 elections after previously putting the bill on hold due to not receiving enough votes, however, legislative leaders in New Jersey believe they can convince enough lawmakers to vote for the bill during the “lame duck” session at the end of this year or in the first half of next year.

“I’m not going to give up trying,” Sweeney said. “I would love to do it. We’ll make one more run at it.”

Passing cannabis through legislation has been the preferred method for Gov. Phil Murphy, as it would be easier to mold and regulate the new cannabis industry. Waiting until next year’s election would mean New Jersey residents wouldn’t be able to legally consume cannabis until 2021 at the earliest. Another fear is states neighboring New Jersey would get a jump on legalizing cannabis before New Jersey voters can even get to the polls.

New Jersey recently expanded its medical cannabis program and has been discussing decriminalizing cannabis, but those would be quick fixes that wouldn’t solve the problems that many are facing, such as patients still having problems obtaining cannabis.

To get a voter referendum on the 2020 ballot, legislators have to either approve the question by three-fifths majority vote or by simple majorities in back to back years, and they have until August 2020 to do that. If the legalization bill isn’t passed by the end of the year, legislators may not try again early 2020 and instead will wait for the voter referendum.

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