New Jersey governor renews call for legalizing marijuana

New Jersey governor renews call for legalizing marijuana

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) called for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana by adults in New Jersey in his State of the State address on Tuesday.

“By legalizing adult-use marijuana – first and foremost – we can reverse the inequality and unfairness left from years of failed drug policies and shift public safety resources to where they can do the most good,” he said.

Murphy told The Hill in December that the “biggest driver” for him in terms of marijuana legalization was social justice.

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“We have to remind folks that we're not inventing marijuana, that it exists. What we're trying to do is trying to undo the social injustices, take the business out of the hand of the bad guys, protect our kids, regulate it, tax it. It's not going away,” he said at the time.

The governor echoed Tuesday during his address that the state should attempt to change the law to help those trying to move on from past convictions.

“We must ensure that those with a past mark on their records because of a low-level offense can have that stain removed, so they can move forward to get a stable job or an education,” he said. 

New Jersey law currently prohibits the recreational use of marijuana, but allows the use of the drug for medical purposes. 

Murphy pointed to other states such as Massachusetts and Colorado, where legalized pot has resulted in heightened tax revenues and the creation of small businesses.

“Massachusetts’ new industry is creating an estimated 19,000 new jobs. And, in Colorado, legalization fostered an industry that has an annual statewide economic impact measured at $2.4 billion, with 18,000 new jobs created in research, agriculture, processing, and retail. We can do that here, and in a smart way that ensures fairness and equity for minority-owned businesses and minority communities,” Murphy said. 

Murphy attempted to pushed marijuana legalization through the New Jersey legislature last year after he took office but was blocked by some Democratic leaders.

A joint panel of lawmakers from the New Jersey state Senate and Assembly approved a bill in November to fully legalize and regulate weed. However, Murphy and Democrats in the state legislature are reportedly still ironing out disagreements on an array of issues, particularly over an appropriate tax rate on the drug once it is legalized.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also used his State of the State address on Tuesday to call for legalizing recreational marijuana.

“Legalize adult-use cannabis,” he said. “Stop the disproportionate impact on communities of color and let’s create an industry that empowers the poor communities that paid the price and not the rich corporations who come in to make a profit.”

The District of Columbia and 10 states have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while 23 other states have laws in place legalizing medical pot. A Gallup poll released in October shows that 66 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

Recreational marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level, though Attorney General nominee William Barr said Tuesday during his Senate confirmation hearing that if confirmed he would not go after marijuana companies in states where it is legal.