Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey abandoned legislation to legalize recreational cannabis sales for the second time this year.

Instead, lawmakers introduced a resolution on Monday to allow the voters to decide. They want to put the question on the November 2020 presidential election ballot – should the state of New Jersey legalize recreational marijuana?

 

 

Ballot initiative requires that both houses of the state Legislature pass the resolution by either three-fifths majority in one year or simple majorities in consecutive years.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D) announced on Monday that while they had “made further attempts to generate additional support in the Senate to get this done legislatively,” the “votes just aren’t there.” Scutari was the lead sponsor of the cannabis legalization bill, NJ S2703 (18R), in the upper house.

Three hours before the November 2020 voter ballot announcement on Monday, Scutari held a press conference with Assemblyman Jamel Holley and pro-marijuana groups to demand action on the legal recreational use bill. “The time is now for action,” Scutari stated, citing 2017 arrest data, which depicted large racial gaps in marijuana arrests. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been before,” he added. But the state was not close enough – right after the press conference ended, the Senate Majority Office released his joint statement with Sweeney, stating the time gap for immediate action has passed.

The legislation would provide lawmakers with flexibility that changing the State Constitution does not allow. However, if the proposal to amend the state constitution is approved in 2020, New Jersey would join the District of Columbia and 11 other states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

The initiative calls for legalizing the drug for adults aged 21 or older. The state of New Jersey’s medical marijuana commission would be required to oversee the new market. In addition, marijuana sales would be subject to the state’s 6.625 percent sales tax.