New Jersey‘s top three elected officials may have recently been defeated on legislation regarding marijuana legalization, but they are not giving up.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D), Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin vowed in a press conference Monday afternoon to continue their efforts to not only legalize recreational cannabis, but also to expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program and introduce major reforms to the state’s criminal justice system.

“We’re going to sit down and get to work on figuring out the next steps,” Coughlin (D-Middlesex) said during the press conference in the governor’s office. “We didn’t get a touchdown, but we moved the ball to the one yard line.”

Sweeney (D-Gloucester) ultimately pulled the legislation bill, NJ 2703, on Monday after he realized an insufficient number of Senate Democrats supported it. Coughlin added, however, that he was confident the bill had enough support to pass in the Assembly.

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“We might have lost the fight, but we’re absolutely going to win the war at the end of the day,” Sweeney stated during the news conference.

Many Democratic lawmakers have pushed for marijuana legalization for at least recreational use. Several Democrats have also pointed to the major racial inequalities in the criminal justice system that have led to significantly more black and Hispanic Americans being incarcerated for low-level drug offenses than white Americans. Data has shown that minorities in cities like New York City are more likely to be arrested and charged for marijuana possession than their white counterparts.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a 2020 presidential candidate, has been one of several lawmakers to advocate for marijuana legalization and implement criminal justice reform.


Many opponents to marijuana legalization have argued that pot would merely serve as a “gateway drug” that leads to more vice in inner-city communities, especially among minorities.

A recently proposed amendment in New Jersey would have reportedly made anyone previously convicted of distributing between one ounce and five pounds of cannabis eligible for expungement.

Last year, Canada legalized marijuana nationally.

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