Gov. Chris Christie has said that he is the “only impediment” to taxing and regulating marijuana in New Jersey — and he is leaving office in January 2018. Phil Murphy (D), who has repeatedly touted his support for legalization, beat Kim Guadagno (R) by about 10 percentage points and will be the next governor!
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22), sponsor of the bill to end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey, won easily, and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), another vocal supporter of legalization, was also victorious.
New Jersey is now well-placed to be the first state to end marijuana prohibition through the legislative process (as opposed to a citizens’ ballot initiative) — but a bill still won’t pass without hard work. And the details of the bill — things like ensuring people who have been criminalized for marijuana possession can expunge their records once marijuana possession is legalized — will require close attention to guarantee New Jersey implements the best possible public policy.
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana … And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
On the Republican side, the victor was Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. While she opposes legalization, she has said she supports decriminalizing marijuana and easing patient access to the medical marijuana program, unlike current Gov. Chris Christie.
The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. You must be registered to vote by October 17; click here for more information or to check your registration status. If you have been convicted of a crime, you can still vote as soon as your sentence (including probation) is completed, but you must re-register. If you’re unable to vote in person on Nov. 7, this website has lots of helpful information on voting by mail.
Last week, Senator Nicholas Scutari (D) introduced his long-awaited bill that would end marijuana prohibition in New Jersey and replace it with a system that regulates and taxes cannabis similarly to alcohol. Please contact your lawmakers and urge them to support S3195.
While Gov. Chris Christie has made no secret of the fact that he would veto such a bill, he is leaving office in January 2018. It’s important to get New Jersey’s lawmakers to discuss this important policy and show their support of ending prohibition now, so that change can happen quickly once a new governor is in office. While Sen. Scutari’s bill doesn't include every provision in MPP’s model bill — notably not allowing for home cultivation — it would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo. One noteworthy provision would allow people with marijuana possession convictions to expunge their records immediately.
Despite someone being arrested for marijuana possession every 22 minutes in New Jersey, prohibition hasn’t stopped cannabis use, and it has disproportionately impacted African-Americans. If you are a New Jersey resident, please ask your legislators for their support in ending this failed policy.
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MPP is pleased to announce the release of our annual list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers” in the United States!
President Barack Obama is at the top of the list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates. At least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have said or strongly indicated that they have consumed marijuana: Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Rick Santorum.
Nine others do not appear to have said whether they have consumed marijuana, and they did not respond to inquiries from MPP: Joe Biden, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb. Only six candidates have said they never used marijuana: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
The list is intended to identify individuals who have used marijuana and achieved high levels of success or influence. It was created using the same criteria employed by Out Magazine to produce its "Power 50” list of LGBT Americans, such as “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person’s media profile.” To qualify for MPP’s list, individuals must (1) be alive, (2) be a U.S. citizen, and (3) have consumed marijuana at least once in their life according to either their own account or that of a legitimate source. They do not need to currently consume marijuana or support marijuana policy reform.
In recent months, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly said that he does not agree with marijuana legalization and would most likely end the current policy which allows states to determine their own marijuana laws provided they meet certain criteria, earning him a grade of "F" on MPP's Presidential Report Card.
On Tuesday, Gov. Christie reaffirmed this position, saying that state laws making marijuana legal are numbered if he is elected president. The Huffington Post reports:
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said Tuesday during a Newport, New Hampshire, town-hall meeting, Bloomberg reports. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
Christie, one of 16 Republicans campaigning for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has made no secret of his long-held opposition to cannabis. As governor of New Jersey, he has opposed even his own state's limited medical marijuana program and has called similar laws in 22 other states a "front" for full recreational legalization. He has described taxes generated from the sale of marijuana as "blood money." And earlier this year in no uncertain terms, he said that, as president, he would "crack down and not permit" recreational cannabis in states that have legalized it.
Even Christie's fellow Republicans don't seem to favor such a hard-line stance. According to a recent Pew survey, while most GOP voters do not support legalization, they do support states' rights when it comes to marijuana -- with 54 percent saying that the federal government should not interfere with states that have already legalized cannabis. Among millennial Republicans, support for legalizing marijuana is significant -- with 63 percent in favor.
"Gov. Christie is either totally clueless or utterly careless," Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Huffington Post. "If Gov. Christie is trying to distinguish himself from the other Republican candidates, he’s doing a good job. He clearly has the least respect for states’ rights and the most desire to maintain our federal government’s failed program of marijuana prohibition."
Interestingly, Gov. Christie's dedication to enforcing federal law does not extend to sports gambling in his state, which is currently illegal under a 1992 federal ban.
Check out this encounter MPP's Matt Simon had with Gov. Christie in New Hampshire this morning:
Last Friday, MPP released the 2016 Presidential Candidates Report Card, which grades the various major candidates based on their support for marijuana policy reform or the willingness to allow it to move forward. Since then, a wide variety of news outlets have written about it, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Times, and others. In particular, there was quite a bit of interest in Republican Sen. Rand Paul receiving the highest grade of any candidate: A-.
The Washington Times reports:
Mr. Paul, received a grade of “A-” from the Marijuana Policy Project. The group said his grade was based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, support for reducing marijuana-related penalties and support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Santorum, meanwhile, two other GOP contenders, both received a grade of “F” “because they oppose reform efforts and they are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal,” the group said.
“Some of these guys who tout states’ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of people’s private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the group. “They say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing.”
Not surprisingly, Sen. Paul has gotten a lot of attention this week by being the first presidential candidate to actively court the marijuana industry for campaign donations.
The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association now officially supports legalizing the possession of marijuana, which is quite an unlikely source of support, since they are the principle group who prosecutes marijuana users in the state.
“Each week, New Jersey police officers arrest hundreds of citizens for the disorderly persons offense of possession of under 50 grams of marijuana,” said Jon-Henry Barr, president of the board of trustees of the Municipal Prosecutors Association. “Those arrested include professionals and many people who would never think of committing any type of serious, victim-related crime.”
In an interview with Kathleen Hopkins from the Asbury Park Press, Barr enumerated the reasons why a strong majority (seven out of ten) of the association wants to support the legalization of marijuana:
• Requests by prosecutors to analyze samples of marijuana are overwhelming the state’s drug-testing laboratories, sometimes leading to dismissals of cases when defendants invoke their rights to speedy trials;
• Studies show that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine;
• Marijuana is easier for high school students to obtain than alcohol because the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated;
• Very few of the thousands of DWI cases prosecuted annually are for driving under the influence of marijuana;
• Statistics show that African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people are, but there is no evidence to show there is disproportionately more marijuana use in minority communities;
• The state loses money by not collecting sales tax on marijuana, while drug dealers profit.
This much-needed support from the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association comes at a pivotal time in the state’s struggle to define its stance on marijuana. Two bills have recently been introduced; one bill permits citizens to carry an ounce or less of marijuana, while the other sets up a tax-and-regulate system.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana law has shown itself to be overly restrictive and flawed in many ways, but fortunately, the legislature has approved a bill that would make a few significant improvements.
S2842/A4241 was drafted on behalf of two-year-old patient Vivian Wilson, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome but has not been able to benefit from the state's the program. The bill, which has been supported by our allies at the Drug Policy Alliance, would make three significant changes to New Jersey’s law:
* It would remove the requirement that an alternative treatment center may only grow three strains of marijuana.
* It would allow medical marijuana to be distributed in edible forms and other forms approved by the Commissioner of Health.
* It would remove the requirement that minor patients with serious illnesses must receive a recommendation from a pediatrician and psychiatrist in addition to the treating physician.
This bill passed the Assembly Monday in a 55-13 vote after having previously been approved by the Senate, 24-14. However, Gov. Chris Christie has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, and in an interview last month, he said he’s “not inclined to allow” minors to have access to medical marijuana.
If you are a New Jersey resident, please call Gov. Christie today and urge him to sign this bill.
Poll: Majority of New Jersey Voters Support Decriminalization for Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana
Commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, the poll of 604 registered voters determined that 61 percent support the elimination of criminal penalties for minor possession (under two ounces).
The poll also found that 82 percent of voters either favor, or are neutral to, politicians who advocate for reducing criminal penalties for possession.
Rosanne Scotti, the New Jersey State director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, "More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010 at a cost of more than $125 million dollars. New Jerseyans understand that current penalties for marijuana are unfair and wasteful.”
Despite this wave of public support, NJ Gov. Chris Christie has stated that he will veto any decriminalization bill.