The state of New Jersey has not progressed with modernizing its cannabis laws under Gov. Chris Christie, who is well known for his outdated view on cannabis.
Things are likely to change for the better though as Christie is leaving the office he’s been holding since 2010 and in the race to replace him, his second in command, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was defeated by Democrat Philip D. Murphy.
While Ms Guadagno campaigned on reducing property taxes, his opponent, the former Wall Street banker, Murphy promised legalising cannabis, stricter gun laws and an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour.
Mr Murphy said he would make marijuana legal within 100 days of becoming Governor in January and after defeating Guadagno, the question is if he can make it happen.
If he did, that would make New Jersey the first state to pass marijuana legalization legislatively.
Despite the highest ever measured public support for legalising cannabis, every state that made cannabis legal so far, did so via ballot measures.
Vermont and New Hampshire got the closest, however, some Democrats crossed the bench to join Republicans to derail plans in both of those states, although New Hampshire did end up decriminalizing cannabis possession as a result.
This time it is a little different, as incoming Governor Murray campaigned on cannabis legalisation and he is very determined to make it happen and will most likely have the support he needs to do so.
“This is something Murphy supports and I support it and I don’t think anyone is going to go out of their way to embarrass the governor,” Sweeney said. “It’s a priority and it’s something we’re going to need to do.” – New Jersey Senate President, Stephen Sweeney was quoted by the Washington Examiner.
Nothing is guaranteed, however, as there are many details to be debated yet and anti-cannabis groups are trying to derail the new Governors plans.
Anti-cannabis group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana is trying to organize a new coalition of Republicans and Democrats to oppose legalization and hoping for a similar outcome to Vermont.
Even if some Dmocrats oppose Mr Murphy, at least a couple of Republicans in the Senate do support legalization, Mr Sweeney told the Examiner, so New Jersey has a very good chance to become the first US state to legalize cannabis legislatively.
One of the areas that is likely to attract fierce debate is home growing.
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is trying its best to include a provision in the new bill to allow for home growing cannabis. However, Senate president, Mr Sweeney is not a huge fan and believes that leaving it out of the bill would give it a better chance to pass.
Mr Sweeney told the Examiner that he was confident that the bill would pass and marijuana legalisation would become law before April 2018 and as a result, cannabis stores could start opening during 2019.