New Jersey struggles with legalization efforts

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New Jersey struggles with legalization efforts

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

A prominent New Jersey lawmaker says he’s “losing faith” in the governor and Democratic leaders when it comes to legalizing cannabis. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who introduced a legalization bill in the state, says he might even have voters decide on the issue in November, instead of relying on Democratic leaders.

“It’s not my preference,” said Scutari, “but I think it might be a lot easier to let the people decide.”

Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association, told Cannabis News Box that there have been a few “key sticking points” when it comes to getting legalization done in New Jersey. The main points are how much it will be taxed and how much it will be regulated.

“There are a lot of moving parts in crafting any major piece of legislation, let alone ending cannabis prohibition and establishing an industry in its place,” Rudder said. “We need to bring this to a conclusion sooner rather than later.”

Rudder doesn’t believe having the citizens vote on the issue would necessarily change anything, because he thinks the citizens would approve the measure, but lawmakers would still have to decide how to implement legalization. They’d end up in essentially the same spot they’re in now.

“The issue is, once we pass the ballot, and we would, we will still be in the same exact spot, one year from now, debating the enabling legislation to support a passed ballot question,” Rudder said. “Essentially causing a full year delay. That means for the next year, an average of 88 people will still be arrested on a daily basis equaling more than 32,000 by the end of the year.”

There isn’t a certain group of people stopping legalization from moving forward, Rudder said, it’s just that there are a lot of different ideas about how to move forward and what the final product should look like. That said, lawmakers currently agree on the vast majority of possible policies.

“We can get this done quickly by continuing the legislative process,” Rudder said. “The Governor, Senate President and the Speaker agree 100%, that we need to end cannabis prohibition and they agree 95% on how it should be done. We need to find the breakthrough compromise to get us across the finish line.”

It’s clear New Jersey is nearing legalization, but it’s also clear that this is not an easy process. Advocates hope politicians will resolve their differences shortly and get these much-needed reforms passed.