NJ Politics Digest: With Legalization Stalled, Will Murphy Embrace Decriminalization?

It appears likely that efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana won't go anywhere until voters are asked to decide the matter in a statewide referendum in 2020.

Marijuana. David McNew/Getty Images

It appears likely that efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana won’t go anywhere until voters are asked to decide the matter in a statewide referendum in 2020. So, is Gov. Phil Murphy moving toward embracing decriminalization of pot use as interim measure until a referendum passes?

As NJ.com reports, Murphy seemed to indicate he’d consider such a move when asked during a press conference prior to his signing the law that expanded the state’s medical marijuana program.

Decriminalizing pot would stop most arrests for marijuana, but would leave the business in the hands of people who are breaking the law—something Murphy has indicated he isn’t willing to do. Legislators in favor of legalization and taxing marijuana sales worry that decriminalization would reduce public support for such measures.

With Democratic leaders unable to muster the votes to approve legalization, Senate President Steve Sweeney said he would place a referendum question on the ballot in November 2020. That is an election with expected high turnout because it’s also a presidential election. The worry is that holding the referendum this year would result in only opponents being motivated to go to the polls—bad news for legalization efforts and likely the Democratic legislators that support them.

With such an extended timeline, Murphy seemed to indicate he’d at least be willing to consider decriminalization, saying, “at a certain point, we have to look at all options,” according to the NJ.com report. “I’m not gonna say hell no to anything right now.”

Quote of the Day: “Our clients are good people. They were long-standing and hardworking employees of the SDA who went to work every day and did a good job. They deserved better than to be fired simply because the new CEO and her political party wanted to find jobs for their own political supporters,” — Attorney Daniel Sweetser, who filed suit on behalf of five former employees of the Schools Development Authority who claim they were fired so they could be replaced by politically connected people.

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NJ Politics Digest: With Legalization Stalled, Will Murphy Embrace Decriminalization?