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NJ legislature to decide on marijuana bill around Election Day 2020

<p>New Jersey will either decide whether to legalize marijuana through a legislative vote or ballot referendum.</p>

New Jersey will either decide whether to legalize marijuana through a legislative vote or ballot referendum.

A vote to legalize marijuana in New Jersey will be cast sometime on or after Election Day November 2020, sources close to the matter said, according to an article on NJ Advance Media. 

The New Jersey state legislature has been debating marijuana legalization since Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) took office in January 2018. Murphy campaigned in support of the drug’s legalization. 

The Daily Targum reported last semester that a vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 was canceled and called off after lawmakers and Murphy could not agree on how to implement and tax the drug. 

The issue back in March was that the bill was 21 votes shy of passing in the Senate, the Targum reported. At the time, it was thought another vote could occur in May 2019, but now some type of vote is expected to come during either the “lame duck” period after Election Day or as a state referendum on the election’s ballot, according to the article. 

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

Sweeney still hopes to obtain the 21 votes needed to pass the legislation, but plan B would be to send for a referendum vote on the 2020 ballot, which will also include votes in national elections, according to the article. 

New Jersey Assembly leaders said they have the 41 votes needed to pass the bill, according to the article. 

“If I think I got 21 votes, I’ll put it up for a vote,” Sweeney said, according to the article. 

Yet the vote tally does not appear likely to change before Election Day, when all 80 seats in the New Jersey legislature will be on the ballot. Lawmakers do not want to be pressured to vote on the topic until then, according to the article. 

Murphy 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, the Targum reported. 

New Jersey would become the 10th state to legalize marijuana, and could be the second state to do so legislatively, the Targum reported. 

“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,” Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy said to the Targum last year. “In my opinion, it has been no worse than alcohol, and alcohol has clearly been a problem.”

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