What's next for recreational pot? NJ supporters say fight is far from over

Marijuana plant
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey legislators failed to take up the issue of legalizing adult use of marijuana after it became clear there were not enough votes in the state Senate to pass it. 

So what’s the next move for supporters of the idea? 

Scott Rudder, a former state legislator who leads the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, noted how legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy couldn’t get the required 21 votes in the Senate.

“For some, they felt that the process was rushed. For some, they wanted further answers on what happens with impaired drivers or why we’re doing expungement a certain way,” he said. “So those are legitimate concerns and legitimate questions.”

Those who back the change will work to answer those questions in short order.

Ridder suggests it’s not a matter of if, but when the idea will get to Murphy’s desk. And he believes that could happen in May or June — right in the middle of a budget debate. 

Part of the reason a compromise bill was rushed to a vote in just two weeks’ time was the fact that the entire 80-member Assembly is up for re-election in November — a belief Rudder disputes.

“We feel very confident that, had the vote been held in the Assembly on Monday, that it would have passed,” he added. “So we feel confident in our position on the Assembly side. The Senate side? It’s been a little bit more challenging.”

But the idea has been debated off and on for more than two years. With Murphy now in favor of legalization paired with social justice reforms, supporters think the time is right to move on the issue.

All they need now is four or five more members of the Senate to agree.