New Jersey scrapped a vote on legalizing recreational cannabis in the state after it was determined there was not enough support for the motion on Monday.
“History is rarely made on the first try. But, eventually, barriers do fall to those who are committed to breaking them down,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Twitter. “Our commitment to adult-use marijuana legalization and expungement has not wavered … Change is never easy, but we will keep fighting.”
Murphy had made cannabis legalization a key issue during his gubernatorial campaign, but could not get the 21 votes needed for the proposed bills, despite Democrats controlling both the state Assembly and Senate.
Three bills were introduced and have since been cancelled. One was to legalize cannabis for adult use, another was to expunge hundreds of thousands of criminal cannabis convictions and the third was to expand New Jersey’s medical cannabis program.
The legalization bill would have given people of minority groups equal access to licenses to sell or cultivate cannabis in an industry that has formed without much diversity. White ownership was found in 2017 to make up more than 80 per cent of the cannabis businesses in the U.S.
It was also proposed that anyone convicted of possessing up to five pounds of cannabis would be eligible to have their convictions overturned.
New Jersey sees around 37,500 people arrested on cannabis charges per year, the third most out of all U.S. states in 2016. A recent study has found that black residents are three times more likely to be arrested on cannabis offences than a white resident in the state.
While a recent poll by Monmouth University has shown that six out of 10 New Jersey residents support recreational cannabis legalization, a handful of African-American Democratic lawmakers argued the bill would hurt public health in their communities.
Legalization was attempted through state legislature rather than a ballot initiative, a rare choice given that only Vermont has decided to go that route out of the 10 states that have legalized cannabis.
Republican Senator Kip Bateman said in a statement on March 18 that lawmakers hadn’t seen the final copy of the bill “with minutes to go.”
“Legalizing marijuana would have an enormous impact on all our communities,” he said. “Asking us to form an opinion without seeing the full details of the bill is an incredibly irresponsible way to govern.”
Days later, on March 22, he said on Twitter that after seeing the proposed legislation he has “too many outstanding concerns” and would vote “no” on the bill.