As it becomes increasingly clear that the bill to legalize recreational marijuana is unlikely to get enough support in the New Jersey senate, lawmakers are beginning to consider the possibility of letting voters make the decision through a referendum in 2020.
It is now six weeks since a vote on the legalization bill was suddenly called off, but legislative leaders and Gov. Murphy don’t seem to have made any progress is securing the “2-5 votes” needed to guarantee that the legalization bill will pass on the senate floor. The Assembly doesn’t have the same problem and they are just waiting for the senate to be ready before they vote to pass the bill.
That wait doesn’t show any signs of ending soon, and some lawmakers are beginning to float the possibility of letting voters have the final say on marijuana legalization.
New Jersey is unique from other states because voters cannot initiate a referendum or ballot measure as it is known elsewhere in the country. Instead, legislators have to agree and draft the appropriate referendum question so that voters cast their ballots for or against the question presented.
Gov. Murphy laid down a deadline of end of May and threatened to expand the medical marijuana program administratively if the legalization bill isn’t passed by that time. Expanding the medical marijuana program would most likely spell doom for legalization by legislative means since there will be no urgency to debate and pass a standalone recreational marijuana legalization bill.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union County), who drafted the legalization bill, is of the opinion that pursuing legislative means to legalize recreational marijuana would bring better and faster results than using a referendum to change the law.
Scutari added that for a referendum to be binding, it needs to be drafted to the effect that the constitution would be amended to allow recreational marijuana in the state. The state should only resort to a referendum if all else fails, he affirmed.
Gov. Phil Murphy is interested in seeing the recreational marijuana bill passed, but the cries of patients who want to see the medical marijuana program expanded may force him to act on having the medical marijuana expansion bill passed on its own. For example, the six existing dispensaries are woefully inadequate to serve the more than 40,000 medical marijuana cardholders.
Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. (TSX.V: FIRE) (OTCQX: SPRWF) and Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) call on the lawmakers to put aside their differences so that the people of New Jersey aren’t forced to wait for years before recreational marijuana is legal in the state.
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