After failing to pass legislation to legalize marijuana for the second time this year, lawmakers in New Jersey are now planning to pose the question on the November 2020 ballot.
“We made further attempts to generate additional support in the Senate to get this done legislatively, but we recognize that the votes just aren’t there. We respect the positions taken by legislators on what is an issue of conscience,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement.
Sweeney was forced to pull the marijuana legalization bill earlier this year, announcing in May that efforts to legalize weed in the Legislature would be abandoned due to a lack of support among lawmakers.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who ran as a pro-cannabis advocate, said he was “disappointed” by the inability to legalize weed through the state legislature. However, he expressed hope voters would support legalization next year.
“I am disappointed that we are not able to get this done legislatively and that our failed status quo – which sends roughly 600 people to jail a week for possession, the majority of them people of color – will continue. However, I have faith that the people of New Jersey will put us on the right side of history when they vote next November,” Murphy stated.
Most US states legalized recreational weed at the polls
The proposed referendum still needs to be approved by the Legislature. The state Senate and Assembly will have to approve the proposal by either three-fifths majority in one year or by simple majorities in consecutive years.
Still, Democrats advocating for cannabis reform are hopeful.
“This initiative will bring cannabis out of the underground so that it can be controlled to ensure a safe product, strictly regulated to limit use to adults and have sales subjected to the sales tax,” Sweeney and Senator Nicholas Scutari, who sponsored the bill, said in a joint statement.
Ten US states where recreational pot is allowed have approved the measure via ballot.
Vermont became the first state to legalize weed through the legislature in 2018, while Illinois became the second to do so in June this year.
According to the Motley Fool, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota along with New Jersey are six states most likely to legalize cannabis in 2020.