NJ Politics Digest: Dems Have a Deal for Legal Weed, But Do They Have the Votes?

NJSpotlight reports that at last count, there were 20 state senators in favor of the legal weed deal—one short of the 21 needed for approval.

Marijuana. David McNew/Getty Images

It’s taken more than a year, but state Democratic leaders say they have finally reached a deal to legalize and tax the recreational use of marijuana in the state. But whether that deal will garner the support it needs to become state law is still a bit of an open question.

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NJSpotlight reports that at last count, there were 20 state senators in favor of the deal—one short of the 21 needed for approval.

As the report notes, that count was made in November, when the specifics of an agreement were still being debated. It’s also unknown how many votes the bill will get in the state Assembly.

Legalizing recreational marijuana has been a priority of Gov. Phil Murphy, who included $60 million in pot tax revenue in his proposed 2020 budget. The Democrats’ agreement calls for a flat $42 per ounce tax on weed.

But the vote will come in a legislative election year. And a pair of legalization opponents are pushing a plan to have a referendum on legalization. Such a move could provide political cover to lawmakers unwilling to take the heat for supporting legalization and peel away support for the Democrats’ proposal—even though Senate President Steve Sweeney has said he has no intention of putting the idea to voters.

Still, Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy have little time to get their fellow Democrats on board with the plan. The Murphy administration hopes to have a full legislative vote by the end of the month, NJSpotlight reported.

Quote of the Day: “The (state) really needs to explain publicly what’s going on here,” — David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, on the Murphy administration quietly granting a large increase to the Lakewood school district (that it doesn’t technically qualify for) to help pay the cost of private religious education while slashing funding for 200 other districts in the state.

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NJ Politics Digest: Dems Have a Deal for Legal Weed, But Do They Have the Votes?