WAYNE — With the growing likelihood that the use of recreational marijuana will get the green light in New Jersey, William Paterson University has formed an institute devoted to the topic to help make the potential major change as smooth as possible for officials and individuals throughout the state.

A dozen University experts in the areas of criminal justice, biology, public health, counseling and economics have come together for the creation of the Cannabis Institute.

"We saw the need, we saw the timeliness of it, and we saw we had the experts on campus," Sandra DeYoung, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, told New Jersey 101.5.

Institute members are available as a resource for policymakers on the municipal, county and state level, the University said.

The institute will also conduct research on topics related to cannabis, and discuss results through various means such as public lectures and conferences.

"We are taking an open-minded approach," DeYoung said. "In other words, we're not just saying to the legislators that you should or should not pass this legislation, but we want them to know ... what are the issues that are likely to arise that public policy must address?"

DeYoung said the Institute intends to release a white paper on some of the bigger issues related to marijuana legalization, and, "not too far down the road," create a certificate of cannabis studies for students. If there's enough interest, that could lead to a minor in the area.

Stockton University in Galloway introduced a cannabis studies minor this past fall.

Gov. Phil Murphy has promoted his intent to bring legal weed to the Garden State, but he and legislative leadership remain at odds over several sticking points of the plan, including taxation.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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