Should N.J. Legalize Marijuana? The Voters Will Decide

By 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Oct. 5, 2020

“There’s going to be a quantum leap in consumption and it takes time to prepare, to be ready for that,” said Joe Bayern, president of Curaleaf, the world’s largest cannabis company.Credit...

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For two years, New Jersey lawmakers had failed to mobilize enough support to pass a bill to fully legalize marijuana. Instead, they agreed in December to put the question directly to voters: “Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called ‘cannabis’?”

Then March roared in, and the world turned upside down.

The coronavirus took a firm hold in the United States and Black Lives Matter protesters filled streets from coast to coast.

More than 16,000 New Jersey residents have since died from the virus. Unemployment has soared. Ballots for November’s election, which is being conducted almost entirely by mail, have already begun to arrive at voters’ homes.

And a dominant conversation in the nation now centers on race and policing, giving a core argument among supporters of legalization new potency in a state where Black residents are more than three times as likely as white residents to be charged with marijuana possession.

“The big thing that’s changed,” said Axel Owen, campaign manager for NJ Can 2020, a coalition that supports legalization, “is people are having a discussion about the role of policing.”

A Monmouth University poll in April found that 64 percent of New Jersey voters supported legalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use; 61 percent of respondents said they intended to vote “yes” on November’s ballot question.

The use of marijuana for approved medical conditions is legal in 33 states, including New Jersey.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to make it legal to smoke marijuana recreationally, without a medical justification. Nine additional states and Washington, D.C., have since legalized adult use of marijuana, and New Jersey is one of four states where voters will be asked in November if they support legalizing recreational use of the drug. Arizona, Montana and South Dakota have similar ballot initiatives.

If voters approve all four, one in three Americans will live in a state or city where recreational use of marijuana is legal, even before federal legislation advances.

“We’ve seen this complete evolution in thinking,” said Steven Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit that supports legalization. “New Jersey is one of the bluest states in the nation and South Dakota is one of the reddest — and they both have ballot initiatives in November.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-10-05 03:12:11 -0700