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 in every measurable way.
Unfortunately New Jersey is home to one of the biggest cannabis opponents on the planet – current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie once stated that he would veto a cannabis decriminalization bill, and was very clear as a candidate for president 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. Today 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. The two candidates disagree on issues related to cannabis policy. Phil Murphy has stated a number of times that he supports full legalization, while Kim Guadagno wants to keep adult-use prohibition in place (although she has expressed support for expanding medical cannabis in New Jersey). Tom Angell has an outstanding breakdown of the two candidates’ stance on cannabis policy on his website Marijuana Moment which I encourage everyone to check out.
Fortunately for cannabis supporters polling shows Phil Murphy with 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 today’s election and tell everyone you know to do the same. As media outlets in New Jersey have pointed out leading up to today’s election, the vote for New Jersey’s next Governor will largely determine the chances of cannabis being legalized in New Jersey in 2018. In theory anything can happen regardless of who gets elected, but it will likely be an uphill battle to legalize in New Jersey if Guadagno wins. A Phil Murphy victory does not guarantee legalization, but it does significantly improve the odds of it happening.
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 Northeastern 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. Get out and vote today New Jersey!!!