NJ Politics Digest: Why Legal Weed Might Be Years Away

It's beginning to look like recreational marijuana use will be put on the ballot for New Jersey voters to decide in 2020.

A plan to legalize recreational marijuana use might be put to voters in the November 2020 election. David McNew/Getty Images

It’s beginning to look like the only deal state lawmakers might reach on recreational marijuana use is an agreement to put it on the ballot in 2020.

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A report in NJ.com says that legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy are not much closer to corralling the votes they need in order to approve legalization than they were when their efforts collapsed earlier this year.

That makes it increasingly likely that the plan will be put before voters for approval, the report said, quoting a number of insiders familiar with the legalization efforts. And any such referendum will likely have to wait until November 2020, since legalization supporters are worried about putting the measure before voters in a year when the entire state Assembly is up for re-election and there is no marquee race at the top of the ticket to attract younger and more liberal voters, who will likely support making weed legal.

So, the measure will be held until the November 2020 presidential election in an effort to boost its chances, the report said. That means legal weed likely won’t come to New Jersey until some time in 2021.

The report notes that bad blood between Murphy and fellow Democrat Senate President Steve Sweeney is hampering the legalization effort. That friction has only gotten worse as Murphy pushes for an investigation into tax breaks awarded by the state Economic Development Authority—an investigation seen as targeting Sweeney and his political allies. Murphy officials deny the EDA investigation is having an impact on the marijuana legalization effort, according to the report.

Murphy has said he’ll expand the state’s medical marijuana program if a deal isn’t reached on legalizing recreational pot by the end of this month.

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NJ Politics Digest: Why Legal Weed Might Be Years Away