Majority of N.J. residents want legal weed: Here’s what a new poll found

Phil Murphy sees legalized marijuana as a moneymaker for New Jersey, with early estimates saying the state could make around $300 million from taxing weed.

A new poll has found that most New Jersey residents agree with the governor in thinking that legal marijuana would boost the state’s economy. The majority of residents also said they favor legalization.

 Monmouth University poll released Thursday found that 60 percent of New Jersey residents think that legalizing marijuana would make money for the state, while just 16 percent said they believe it would hurt the economy. Twenty percent said legalization would have no impact.

“The strongest argument for marijuana legalization may be the bandwagon effect,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “With many other states doing it, most New Jerseyans seem to view such a move as a potential economic boon with a limited downside.”

Colorado made $1.5 billion in marijuana revenue last year, up from nearly $684 million in 2014, the first year of legal weed sales, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Legalization advocates say that New Jersey could make around $1 billion in total cannabis revenue in its first full year of sales, $300 million of which would be tax revenue. Scott Rudder, the president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association, has said that may be a conservative estimate, considering New Jersey has 9 million residents, compared to 5.6 million in Colorado.

The legalization trend, which started in Colorado and Washington in 2014 but has now spread to seven other states plus Washington D.C., appears to have swayed opinions in the Garden State.

When Monmouth first asked in 2014 if residents favored marijuana legalization, less than half were in support. Thursday’s poll found that 59 percent of New Jerseyans now support legalization, while 37 percent are opposed.

That’s a change from a Stockton University poll earlier this year that found 49 percent of residents supported legalization, while 44 percent were opposed.

The Monmouth poll shows that support would be more than enough for marijuana legalization to pass via ballot initiative, but New Jersey is aiming to become the second state to legalize through the Legislature. Vermont was the first to do it, legalizing weed earlier this year.

Despite support for legalization among residents, lawmakers aren’t on the same page. NJ Advance Media has found that current support of marijuana legalization among legislators isn’t enough to pass a bill.

Both the state Senate and the Assembly are considering bills that would allow people at least 21 years of age to possess and use personal amounts of marijuana, while also establishing a commercial industry. Gov. Murphy has said he wants such a bill passed by the end of the year.

And while residents agree that marijuana would make money for the state, they’re divided on the impact of legalization on drug crimes.

Monmouth found that 32 percent of people said that legal weed would cause a spike in other drug crimes, while 26 percent said it would reduce such crimes. Another 39 percent said legalization would have no impact.