TRENTON — While one of the campaign platforms of Gov.-elect Phil Murphy was bringing the legalization of marijuana to New Jersey, some high-ranking legislators have expressed skepticism.

First it was Assembly Speaker-elect Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, who said he was not ready to commit to an agenda for the upcoming year, including the legalization of marijuana.

"What's going to be our guiding principle is doing what's right and best for the working middle-class people in New Jersey," he said.

State Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, said he wants to hold public hearings before marijuana is legalized in the state.

"We need to slow down the process of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey, and before we go forward with making it law, drill down on the facts," he said in a statement.  "We know there are negative factors that we will need to safeguard against, from children's access to marijuana-infused edibles to motor vehicle accidents caused by impaired driving to the effect of marijuana on babies and the impact of legalization on communities of color."

As the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Rice did not rule out the legalization of marijuana. Marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects black people even though blacks and whites smoke it at the same rate.

"The bottom line is that as we proceed, we must do so with caution," he said.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or

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