• November 27, 2020

New Jersey Just Became the 12th State to Legalize Marijuana

 New Jersey Just Became the 12th State to Legalize Marijuana

Original art by Lizzy Oakley Photography

New Jersey has now joined 11 other states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands in spurning the federal prohibition on marijuana, as voters in the Garden State overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis.

“Garden State voters spoke resoundingly. They are demanding their lawmakers end the failed policy of marijuana criminalization, and instead pursue a more sensible path of regulation and legalization,” Erik Altieri, the executive director of advocacy group NORML, said.

Jersey’s neighbors are surely taking note. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) promised to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2020, but he allowed political infighting over what to do with tax revenue from marijuana sales to derail the effort. Though he’s already promised to redouble his failed effort in the new year. And now he’s got more reason too.

New York is neighbored by Vermont, Massachusetts, and even Canada – all of  which have legalized marijuana for recreational use. And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has vowed to redouble his efforts to legalize cannabis in the months ahead as well. And then there’s Jersey.

With New Jersey voters deciding to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, many advocates say it only pressures politicians in New York – which, with close to 20 million residents, is the most populous state in the Northeast – to get over their political squabbles and act sooner than later; otherwise they risk missing the boat.

And the ship is already sailing, as Cuomo knows, because it’s not just a ‘stoner thing’ anymore. It’s a criminal justice and prison reform issue, and that’s why advocates are cheering after Jersey voters went around their state legislature and the federal government to legalize a substance that’s brought pain, heartbreak and poverty across the nation, especially to many in the Garden State.

“Law enforcement in New Jersey arrests more citizens each year for minor marijuana violations than almost any other state in the nation,” Altieri of NORML said.By moving to end this fiscally wasteful and morally repugnant policy, state officials will now be able to prioritize law enforcement resources toward combating more serious criminal activities, better respect the personal freedom and civil liberties of their citizens, end the racist application of marijuana prohibition laws against communities of color, and direct new tax revenues toward important social programs such as education and infrastructure development.”

With about 57 percent of the votes counted, outlets like The New York Times and MSNBC called it for cannabis. And initial results show overwhelming support, with 67.2 percent of voters having come out in favor of regulating marijuana like alcohol. Only 32.8 percent of voters opposed it.

Matt Laslo

Matt Laslo

Based in Washington, Matt Laslo is a veteran political and music reporter. Since 2006, he’s been a contributor with VICE News, VICE News Tonight HBO, The Daily Beast, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Billboard, The Atlantic, NPR, etc. He’s taught journalism at Boston University (MA) and The University of Maryland (BA). And he teaches political communications at The Johns Hopkins University MA in Government and Public Policy program. He can be found on most all social media platforms as @MattLaslo.

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