As the 2017 legislative sessions begin across America, marijuana reform seems to be one of the most popular topics for legislators. As The Hill pointed out in a recent article, marijuana reform bills are flooding into state legislatures. The results of the 2016 election are having a huge impact on other states that have yet to reform their marijuana laws, as expected.
One state that seems to have a potential showdown brewing is New Jersey. Legislators in New Jersey are pushing ahead with an effort to legalize marijuana for adult use, despite direct opposition from New Jersey’s current Governor Chris Christie. Chris Christie has made it very, very clear that if a marijuana legalization measure comes across his desk, he will veto it.
One of Chris Christie’s public policy areas that he campaigned on when he was running for President was marijuana legalization at the state level, and specifically how he would put an end to it all if had things his way. New Jersey legislators are forging ahead anyways, either to get a bill passed and find out if Chris Christie is bluffing about a veto, or to lay the groundwork now so that once Chris Christie leaves office in 2018 legalization can be made a reality as quick as possible. Below is a great summary of current New Jersey Governor candidates and where they stand on marijuana policy, via NBC:
A top Democratic prospect for governor, Phil Murphy, said he supports legalization. Democratic candidate John Wisniewski, an assemblyman, supports decriminalizing marijuana and creating a legal framework for a market. State Sen. Ray Lesniak says he backs decriminalizing marijuana but isn’t entirely convinced of full legalization. Former Clinton administration official Jim Johnson backs legalization, and former Teaneck fireman and Democratic candidate Bill Brennan is supportive of legalization as well.
Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli, an assemblyman, favors decriminalizing marijuana possession for those who have small amounts, but doesn’t back full-scale legalization. He voted against bills expanding the medical marijuana program. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s spokesperson did not respond to requests on her position. Steven Rogers, a Republican commissioner in Nutley, opposes legalization for recreational marijuana but says he supports medical marijuana programs.
According to a 2015 poll, a majority of New Jersey residents support marijuana legalization. Support nationally has grown in polls from 2015 compared to 2016, so I’d imagine the same is true at the New Jersey level. In 2015 there were no legal states on the East Coast. Now there are two (Maine and Massachusetts) which is a big deal. People will see legalization working in other states in their area and support to follow suit will rise. New Jersey legislators (and New Jersey’s Governor!) need to give the people what they want.