New Jersey Starts Push for Recreational Marijuana

New Jersey

Emboldened by electoral victories in 2014, advocates for marijuana reform have been pushing harder than ever before. Multiple legislatures this year have marijuana bills on the docket and citizen led coalitions have begun to spring up around the country faster than measles at Disneyland.

In New Jersey, the advocacy group United New Jersey for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR) made its presence known to the world this week as it held a press conference in Newark to call for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Comprised of lawyers, prosecutors, doctors and every day citizens, the goal of the press conference was not to back a particular bill or ballot initiative, but rather to start a conversation in the Garden State.

“Our goal right now is not the statehouse,” said William Caruso, former executive director of the state assembly. “Our first job is articulate a message to the voting public, the taxpayers of this state, about what we’re trying to accomplish and why.”

Although NJUMR does not have a bill in the works as of yet, according to CBS New York, the organization supports several core legislative principals that it would like to see in any potential marijuana legislation or ballot initiative. These principals are as follows:

  • Marijuana would be legal for anyone 21 and up,
  • Citizens could posses up to one ounce of marijuana,
  • Driving while smoking marijuana would be illegal and
  • Citizens could grow up to six marijuana plants at a time

Absent from the list of principals is anything regarding the taxation and regulation of marijuana, which is an important part of any marijuana platform. The devil is always in the details and any marijuana movement would have a hard time achieving success with such a broad position.

However, as the year goes on, NJUMR will more than likely release a more comprehensive platform as an actual bill begins to take shape.

Although NJUMR is endorsed by the state’s chapter of the ACLU, NAACP and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the group will still face an uphill battle trying to get marijuana reform passed. While some Republicans may support the movement, Republican Gov. Chris Christie is still vehemently opposed to marijuana reform.

“I’m not going to do that on my watch,” Christie told a crowd of 500 during a Town Hall meeting in 2014. “I’m just not. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for our state.” Such a stance puts a damper on the hope of passing marijuana reform through the legislature in 2015; a ballot initiative in 2016 might be a better avenue.

Regardless of how NJUMR plans on passing marijuana reform, it is going to be a long road ahead. According to a poll in 2014, New Jersey is split down the middle on recreational marijuana, with 48 percent of respondents in favor and 48 percent in opposition. Hopefully, the citizens of New Jersey can unite under the banner of marijuana reform and redefine what “Garden State” means.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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