Legalization in New Jersey Collapses
The New Jersey State Senate vote on legalizing recreational marijuana was cancelled. This is a major blow to Gov. Phil Murphy on one of his signature campaign issues. Bill sponsors hope it can be brought back in late fall 2019 but they are going to have to bring more Senators on board. Sponsors are tight-lipped about what they would change to get those additional votes.
Democratic Majorities Across the Board
Like New York, New Jersey Democrats now control the executive and legislative branches (Assembly and Senate both) but I think what the New Jersey and New York Democrats are finding that they have to actually read the bills. Back when their Republican opposition was sure to stop the bills they didn’t even bother to try to work the bills to make them better. They just cried obstruction. Now that they don’t have a scapegoat who always just says no (pun intended) the Democrats must bear the responsibility for the lack of support on these same bills that they formerly supported 100%.
An Urban Split
It is interesting how Democratic urban representatives are split. Some look to legalization as an opportunity to expunge criminal records and help the community, while some think it will be a menace to society. “In my heart, and from my experience, I know the detriment it’s going to cause long term in urban communities in particular,” Senator Ronald L. Rice, a Democrat from Newark, said in an interview this year. “We know the health problems that are going to be created and no one wants to accept that fact.”
Disappointed Criminal Justice Reformers
The bill would have wiped away criminal records for hundreds of thousands of people convicted of minor drug offenses. It would also have given many in jail the chance to be set free and end parole for many others. There are thousands of disappointed families of the imprisoned today.
One of the fights in New Jersey as in New York is how to ensure minority businesses benefit. Some black lawmakers in New York say they will continue to block the expansion of the industry in New York if the current bill does not ensure that minority entrepreneurs share in the profits, get job training and receive licenses to sell and cultivate marijuana in New York. With many states having already legalized marijuana, New Jersey pieced together much of its plan from efforts elsewhere, though the state’s program would have had some interesting differences. Customers in New Jersey would have been able to have marijuana delivered to their door and would have been allowed to use cannabis in weed lounges. New Jersey was also trying to take a very strong position on disrupting the whiteness of the industry. White ownership makes up more than ¾ of the industry according to a 2017 study.