Pot Legalization May Play Major Role in New Jersey Governor Race

By Kelly Burch 04/26/17

The candidates are beginning to solidify their stances on legalization, an issue that has been politically divisive in the Garden State. 

New Jersey gubernatorial frontrunner Phil Murphy
New Jersey gubernatorial frontrunner Phil Murphy Photo via YouTube

Efforts to introduce marijuana legalization in New Jersey have been blocked for years by Republican Governor Chris Christie, who vowed to veto any measure to legalize pot for recreational use. But with Christie’s term ending in January, marijuana legalization could become an important part of the gubernatorial race in the Garden State, as the state legislature plans to push the issue with the new governor. 

Despite the Trump administration’s stance against legal marijuana, proponents of recreational use say they believe a change will be coming soon. They argue that recreational marijuana could raise revenue for the state. 

“We have a very solid shot,” Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, told Leafly. He added that the Trump administration is unlikely, in his opinion, to interfere with New Jersey or any other states that have approved recreational use. “We are so far down the path of millions into state coffers and thousands of jobs,” he said.

Candidates for the governorship have been solidifying their stances on the issue.

Democratic front-runner Phil Murphy supports legalization, while another Democrat, Jim Johnson, is in favor of legalization in a “safe and regulated manner.” Two other Democratic candidates, John Wisniewski and state Sen. Ray Lesniak, are more cautious about full legalization but support decriminalization.

The Republican front-runner is Christie’s Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. She has not made her position clear. Another Republican candidate, Jack Ciattarelli, wants to decriminalize possession in small amounts, but is not in favor of full legalization and has voted against bills that would have expanded New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Republican Steven Rogers opposes legalization, but says he supports medical marijuana.

New Jersey's medical marijuana program began in 2010, before Christie took office. People who are in favor of more widespread marijuana legalization say that Christie has not allowed the medical marijuana program to expand, like opening more dispensaries. 

However, the New Jersey legislature is currently controlled by Democrats, who generally are in favor of marijuana legalization or expanding medical marijuana access. Lawmakers from New Jersey have traveled to Colorado to see how that state handles legalization, according to Leafly

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.