Prospects for N.J. legal weed bill looking grim, insiders say. It may be put in voters’ hands — next year.

By Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for and Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for

After more than a year of stops and starts, hope is dimming for New Jersey’s leaders to convince enough state lawmakers to vote for a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, NJ Advance Media has learned.

Instead, the chances of letting Garden State voters decide whether to make pot legal have increased in recent weeks — most likely in a ballot referendum in the 2020 November elections, according to six legislative and industry sources with direct knowledge of the discussions.

And if the issue does go before voters then, that means New Jerseyans may not be able to partake in legal weed until sometime in 2021.

Some sources say a new development has added to uncertainty: the increasingly heated street fight between Gov. Phil Murphy and allies of state Senate President Stephen Sweeney — two top Democrats who must work together to get pot passed — over tax incentives doled out by New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority.

A task force convened by Murphy has been investigating whether corporations misused the breaks in past years, including one company owned by Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, a close ally of Sweeney.

And that has made the already strained relationship between Murphy and Sweeney even more tense, at a critical point in the fight for legal pot, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the situation.

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