Possession of less than 50 grams of cannabis in New Jersey carries a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalties are even greater for possession of over 50 grams, and for cultivating or distributing any amount of cannabis. The state of New Jersey is arresting people for cannabis at an alarming rate, and to make matters worse, African Americans are being arrested at three times the rate of Caucasians. Cannabis prohibition in New Jersey is a failed, harmful public policy.
Unfortunately New Jersey is home to one of the biggest cannabis opponents on the planet – Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie once stated that he would veto a marijuana decriminalization bill, and was very clear as a candidate for the White House that he would crackdown on states that have voted to legalize cannabis. Chris Christie really, really hates cannabis and apparently those that use it. But, fortunately for the state of New Jersey Chris Christie is on his way out of office. In roughly two weeks the state of New Jersey will be voting for a new Governor.
The two major party candidates are Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, and Republican nominee Kim Guadagno. When it comes to cannabis policy, the two are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Phil Murphy has stated a number of times that he supports full legalization, while Kim Guadagno opposes it (although has expressed support for expanding medical cannabis in New Jersey). Tom Angell has an outstanding breakdown of what the candidates have said about cannabis policy while on the campaign trail, which can be found at this link here.
According to a poll from last month Phil Murphy has a hefty lead in the race. But, as is always the case in politics, nothing is a sure thing. If you live in New Jersey and are a sensible cannabis policy supporter, make sure to vote in the November election and tell everyone you know to do the same. As media outlets in New Jersey have pointed out leading up to election day, the vote for New Jersey’s next Governor will largely determine if cannabis is legalized in New Jersey. In theory anything can happen regardless of who gets elected, but it will be an extremely uphill battle to legalize in the Garden State if Guadagno wins. A Phil Murphy victory does not guarantee legalization, but it does improve the odds of it happening exponentially.
A reform victory in New Jersey would be a victory for cannabis legalization efforts nationwide, as it would build momentum for reform victories elsewhere. Because Chris Christie has clung so hard to cannabis prohibition in New Jersey for so long, a lot of eyes have been on New Jersey from both the pro-reform and anti-reform communities. Two states in the Northeast part of the country (Maine and Massachusetts) have already legalized cannabis and adding New Jersey to that list would be significant, especially since other states in the area are expected to legalize cannabis via legislative action sooner rather than later. New Jersey would be a huge cannabis reform domino if it were to fall. I will be personally watching New Jersey’s election next month with a very close eye and you should be too, whether you live in New Jersey or not. Go get ’em Phil Murphy, and please keep your campaign promise if/when you are elected!