New Jersey: Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Set To Be Unveiled
By Derrick Stanley
A New Jersey lawmaker will unveil legislation on Monday that would legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana in the state.
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) plans to formally announce the Democratic-sponsored measure at a noon news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton.
If the bill becomes law, New Jersey will be the ninth state to legalize adult-use, recreational marijuana, joining Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
"The national trend is toward legalization," Scutari told NJ Advance Media on Friday. "It's absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway."
The bill will need to be passed by both houses of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and signed by the governor to be enacted.
Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, strongly opposes marijuana, arguing that it's a "gateway drug" that can lead users to try harder substances.
Earlier this month, he said that Democrats who want to pass such legislation are willing to "poison our kids" to receive "blood money" from the tax money it will bring in.
"This is beyond stupidity," he said during a speech in Princeton.
But Scutari pointed out that Christie's final term is up in January, and a new governor will be elected in November. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is the front runner for the office at present. He is in favor of legalization, as well as the other five Democratic candidates for governor. Republicans are split.
"We got to get the ball rolling and educate the legislators," said Scutari, chairman of the Senate's judiciary committee. "This is not something I can guarantee passage of right now. But we've got to work it so it will be ready for a new administration come January."
Scutari sponsored New Jersey's medical marijuana law, and has been lobbying for the state to legalize recreational marijuana for years.