New Jersey voters resoundingly approved a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the Garden State.

Nearly 67 percent of voters said yes to Public Question 1 which would amend New Jersey’s constitution to legalize marijuana use, possession, cultivation, processing and distribution for adults 21 and older. Following the successful vote, the constitutional amendment will go into effect January 1, 2021, though this could happen sooner if legislation is passed before that time.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was one of the first to laud the vote as “a huge step forward for racial and social justice.”

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri noted the harms of cannabis prohibition in New Jersey and welcomed the opportunity to refocus resources on socially beneficial initiatives.

“Law enforcement in New Jersey arrests more citizens each year for minor marijuana violations than almost any other state in the nation. By moving to end this fiscally wasteful and morally repugnant policy, state officials will now be able to prioritize law enforcement resources toward combating more serious criminal activities, better respect the personal freedom and civil liberties of their citizens, end the racist application of marijuana prohibition laws against communities of color, and direct new tax revenues toward important social programs such as education and infrastructure development,” he said.

It’s over to New Jersey lawmakers now to quickly pass legislation establishing rules and regulations for the new legal cannabis industry. Public Question 1 identifies the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the state body responsible for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, as the organization to oversee the adult-use industry though the precise limits of its authority is yet to be determined by the legislature.

The approved constitutional amendment caps retail taxes of marijuana sales at 6.25 percent – the state sales tax – with local authorities able to set a further 2 percent tax on marijuana transactions, including between wholesalers, manufacturers and processors. If enacted into law, this would make New Jersey the state with the lowest taxed legal marijuana in the country.

The eventual marijuana legalization bill is likely to closely resemble one submitted by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D). That measure stalled in the Senate, prompting Gov. Phil Murphy to turn to the ballot process. In the meantime, New Jersey’s Assembly passed a marijuana decriminalization bill though that too stalled in the Senate. Murphy then campaigned in favor of the ballot proposal in the months leading up the vote, arguing the move is a “no-brainer” in the wake of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

And New Jersey voters seemed to agree. Polls consistently showed a strong majority of residents in favor of the marijuana legalization ballot question approved by lawmakers.

Steve Hawkins, executive director of Marijuana Policy Project, added his voice to marijuana reform advocates’ celebrations while pointing to the likely impact the policy change will have on New Jersey’s neighbors.

“New Jersey voters have definitively approved marijuana legalization for adults 21 and over after years of political inaction,” Hawkins said. “This victory will undoubtedly have a rippling effect in the Northeast and add to the increasing pressure in neighboring states to take action on marijuana legalization.”

Including the three other states where a recreational marijuana legalization ballot proposal was approved by voters, there are now fifteen states that allow adult-use cannabis.

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