Marijuana legalization summit held in Princeton

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PRINCETON -

Marijuana advocates say they want to see New Jersey become the ninth state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

Gov. Phil Murphy made marijuana legalization one of the largest focuses of his campaign and says that he wants to see legalization within his first 100 days in office. Murphy and other advocates say that if there is a bill to legalize marijuana, it needs to have a racial justice component.

“The big issue for me is social justice,” Murphy said on New 12 New Jersey’s “Ask Gov. Murphy” show. “We have the widest white-non-white gap of persons incarcerated in America.”

According to ACLU executive director Amol Sinha, "In New Jersey if you're black, you're three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than if you're white."

Sinha says that the ACLU would also like to see marijuana use expunged from criminal records if it is legalized.

The ACLU took part in a discussion in Princeton Wednesday with the Marijuana Policy Project.

The pro-legalization group has helped five of eight states legalize recreational use of marijuana. They are also working with Washington, D.C. and Vermont, where it's legal to possess and grow but not buy the plant.

Many towns in New Jersey are split on whether they will allow recreational pot. Point Pleasant officials say they want to ban sales, fearing it as a gateway drug. Toms River has tabled an ordinance to ban it after failing to find public support. 

But officials in Asbury Park say that they would welcome marijuana legalization and hope to host a dispensary.

Murphy has also said that recreational legalization would provide a lot of tax revenue for the state. Washington state recorded $1.4 billion in marijuana sales, resulting in $310 million in tax revenue.

"They will realize it is good public policy and that it is a success and you'll see a reversal in a lot of these places,” says Kate Bell, with Marijuana Policy Project.

Those with the Marijuana Policy Project believe New Jersey will be the next state to legalize marijuana. They say that they suspect that legalization will pass through the state Legislature, unlike Colorado and Washington where a ballot question was used to decide legalization.

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