Marijuana bill fails, lawmakers expect to call for another vote in May

<p>The New Jersey State House, which is located in Trenton, is the capitol building for the state. Used for legislative decisions, lawmakers are planning another vote in May for the bill to legalize recreational marijuana.</p>

The New Jersey State House, which is located in Trenton, is the capitol building for the state. Used for legislative decisions, lawmakers are planning another vote in May for the bill to legalize recreational marijuana.


A vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 was canceled at New Jersey’s state capital on Monday after not gathering enough support in the senate, according to an article by NJ Advance Media. 

“This is not an issue that's going away,” said New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) at a news conference shortly after the vote was called off. “Marijuana will get passed in the state of New Jersey one way or another.”

The vote was called off after it became clear that the senate would vote approximately a handful shy of the minimum 21 votes required to pass a bill, according to the article. Sweeney said he would hold another vote “as soon as (he had) 21 votes for sure.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to plan another vote for as soon as May, according to the article.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) made legalizing marijuana a key issue during his campaign for governor in 2017. The lobbying effort was seen as a referendum on how well he could work with state legislators to pass an initiative of his, according to the article.

Both houses of the legislature have to pass the bill, the senate and the assembly for Murphy to sign it into law. The assembly had the 41 votes needed to pass it on Monday, according to the article. 

Murphy and other lawmakers who support the bill believe that it will raise tax revenue for the state, create a new industry and improve social justice, as Black people are three times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white people, according to the article.

Lawmakers — both Democrat and Republican — who oppose the bill believe it could erode public safety, lead people to try more dangerous drugs and damage communities of color, according to the article.

If New Jersey were to become the 10th state to have legalized recreational marijuana, it would be the second to have done so legislatively. The other states passed the law through a ballot referendum, according to the article. 

The Daily Targum reported in December 2018 that Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy said while marijuana legalization was up to the state government, it would create some problems for Rutgers at the federal level. Although the University has conducted some research on the drug in the past, helping farmers grow marijuana in New Jersey would potentially cause Rutgers to lose federal funding for research.

At the time, Molloy also said to the Targum that marijuana legalization’s impact on safety is unclear.

“There are some people who can argue that driving safety can be impacted by marijuana. I don’t think the studies have been that clear on that,” he said. “In my opinion it has been no worse than alcohol, and alcohol has clearly been a problem.”


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