NJ and Legalized Marijuana: National Model or Petri Dish?

New Jerseyans should “assume” legalization of marijuana is coming and sooner than most think, according to experts and lobbyists at an NJ Spotlight roundtable on Friday. Right now, most of the discussion has been behind closed doors, as legislators count votes and visit other states that have already taken the plunge. Although Gov. Phil Murphy ran on a promise to legalize marijuana, and even assumed millions in tax revenues in his 2018–2019 budget, the discussion in Trenton has so far been pretty quiet.

That’s about to change, claimed panelists, almost all of whom were supportive of the legislation. They dived deep into the policy implications of legalization at the event in Hamilton last week, but the conversation boiled down to two opposing attitudes: If the state were to legalize, will New Jersey be acting as a national, certainly regional, model for other states? Or will it be a petri dish festering with unanticipated problems?

“I want to let other states be the Petri dish,” said panelist Frank Greenagel, a clinical social worker and representative from legalization opposition group NJ RAMP (Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy). “What is the rush? Wait till 2020. Wait till 2022. Wait till 2024.”

There are currently two major bills under consideration in Trenton that would legalize adult recreational use of cannabis, S-830 emanates from the Senate and is sponsored by Nicholas Scutari (D-Union); the Assembly version is A-3819. Another Assembly bill (A-3581) is also on the docket.

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