It’s now up to you: NJ voters to decide in 2020 on legal marijuana
TRENTON — Voters will decide next year whether to make marijuana legal for recreational use by adults in New Jersey, after a proposed constitutional amendment was approved Monday by the Legislature.
The proposal received the three-fifths supermajority it needed to make the ballot with a single vote in the Legislature – barely. It passed the Senate 24-16, the minimum needed for a supermajority, and 49-24 with one abstention in the Assembly, one more vote than what was needed.
Even if hadn't gotten the three-fifths vote, it could have made the ballot by passing with simple majorities two years in a row.
“This is a topic that we’ve been speaking about, at least I’ve been speaking about, for well over a decade. Obviously it’s time has come,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union.
The bill got to 24 votes in the Senate despite opposition from two Democrats – state Sen. Fred Madden, D-Gloucester, and state Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer – because there was one Republican in favor: state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth.
Among those who voted for it was state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, who opposes legalization but had said while the Legislature was considering directly enacting the change that if it’s going to happen, it should be decided in a referendum.
“Millions of dollars came in here to sell this issue, and they did not get what they want the first time around. They didn’t get our vote,” Rice said. “But I can assure you if millions came in here the first time around, that multi-millions coming the second time around. Because it’s not about social justice for black folk or anybody else. It’s about money. It’s about Wall Street.”
The Assembly passed the bill without a floor debate. Two Democrats voted against it: John Armato, D-Atlantic, and Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester.
In the Senate earlier in the afternoon, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said Gov. Phil Murphy is advocating “to lead the people of New Jersey down a very dark path.”
“The greed of Gov. Murphy and his friends is not something that ought to be motivating us to do this terrible thing to the people of the state of New Jersey,” Cardinale said.
State Sen. Bob Singer, R-Ocean, said he supports initiative and referendum but that a clear picture of the downsides of legalization “won’t be allowed to come out” in the campaign.
“This is giving a green light to people thinking it’s OK,” Singer said.