New Jersey residents who want cannabis as an alternative to traditional medicine and the thriving medical marijuana industry eager to serve them stand to gain the most from Wednesday’s announcement that state lawmakers will let voters decide whether to legalize weed in 2020.
The decision to abandon a long-debated bill to legalize recreational pot in favor of a voter referendum clears the way to finally overhaul New Jersey nine-year-old medicinal marijuana law, which frustrated patients and growers see as too expensive and restrictive.
Hearings on the stalled legislation may be held as early as next week, said one of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex said. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, vowed to deliver the bill to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk before the end of June.
For months, Sweeney prevented the state Legislature from voting on the bill expanding the medical program (S10) until he could get enough votes for the recreational marijuana bill (S2703). But on Wednesday morning, Sweeney conceded he had no choice but to abandon that strategy because too many Democrats in his caucus remain steadfastly opposed legalizing recreational marijuana.