Pot legalization could spark fight among Republicans, governor-elect

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TRENTON -

One of the first showdowns between Gov.-elect Phil Murphy and New Jersey Republicans could be the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Republicans are now the minority in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, which means they will lose the veto power that they had with Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

State Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Kean Jr. says that he will have to work to get his party’s voices heard.

“My goal is not to have my caucus be the party of, ‘No.’ There are too many talented individuals within that caucus,” he says.”

The legalization of marijuana may be one such battle Republicans will fight against. Murphy made it one of his first campaign promises, in part for the revenue boost that taxing it will give the state.

Murphy says that New Jersey can learn from other states that have already legalized marijuana to see what they did and did not do right.

“If you’ve got that driving social justice compelling argument, which we have…you can regulate it, you can keep it out of the hands of minors, that’s a pretty compelling rationale,” he says.

But even some Democrats have been hesitant on the issue, something Murphy says that he understands. But he so far has been keeping to all of his campaign promises.

“There’s a visceral reaction to this…when I first thought about it I had a visceral reaction,” he says. “I have four kids…they are 20, 18, 16 and 14, so this is not something you get to lightly.”

Murphy held the first of 14 advisory meetings Tuesday. Kean Jr. says that he is hoping to be included in these meetings.

“Legalizing marijuana, at this time you’ve got concerns about crime issues. You’ve got concerns about the health impact; you’ve got concerns about a host of issues,” he says.

Kean Jr. says that he has been in contact with the governor-elect, but has not yet met with him.

Murphy will be sworn in to office Jan. 16.

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