New Jersey lawmakers moving forward with legalization

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New Jersey lawmakers moving forward with legalization

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

New Jersey Senate and Assembly committees just voted to move forward with the legalization of social use cannabis, and other cannabis-related bills were also passed. Those bills include an effort to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and to expedite the expungement of criminal records related to cannabis.

“Governor Murphy remains committed to legalizing adult-use marijuana, a critical step in eliminating racial disparities in our criminal justice system,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “The governor is committed to working with the Legislature to legalize adult-use marijuana the right way, one that makes the state fairer prioritizes the safety of New Jersey residents, and ensures that some of the economic benefits go to the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.”

Cannabis advocates in New Jersey are excited about the progress being made and believe legalization could happen quite soon. Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, told Cannabis News Box it could happen in just a few weeks.

“Now that the adult-use and expansion of medical bills have moved forward, we expect final votes and getting this to Governor Murphy’s desk within the next few weeks,” Rudder said. “The adult-use legislation is a great step forward. But it still needs some improvements. In addition, issues still need to be worked out between the Governor’s office and legislative leadership in order to come up with a consensus. We are almost there, but more work needs to be done.”

Rudder said December 17 could be the official date everything gets wrapped up, but much could happen in the meantime. He said they’ve reached the final step, and now they just have to make sure they do everything as well as they possibly can.

One thing Rudder thinks needs to be addressed is simply educating the community about the effects of legalization and about cannabis in general. The War on Drugs has had a long-lasting effect on what people think of cannabis, and you can’t just get rid of those false notions overnight.

“There is a lot of misinformation and outdated notions of what cannabis is and what it is not,” Rudder said. “We have the facts on our side, it’s the challenge of having as many community conversations as possible to help make this a successful rollout after the legislation is signed into law.”

Assuming nothing changes, it looks highly likely New Jersey will be the next state to legalize social use cannabis. That’s a big change since former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a noted drug warrior, was in office, and it shows the effects elections can have.