New Jersey lawmakers delay recreational marijuana vote

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TRENTON -

There was another blow for the possibility of legalized recreational marijuana in New Jersey after lawmakers announced that they are abandoning plans to vote on a bill this month.

Gov. Phil Murphy made the legalization of recreational marijuana a major part of his campaign for governor. But it’s 10 months into his term, and lawmakers have still not made much headway on making marijuana legal.

While many of the state’s lawmakers say that they are in favor of legalization, others are not – particularly Democratic state Sen. Ron Rice.

“They are wrong. I know in my heart, they are wrong on this one,” Rice says.

Rice is a former Newark police officer who has been in the state Senate for more than 30 years. He has emerged as the leading opponent of recreational marijuana.

RELATED: Cannabis legalization vote Oct. 29 unlikely, lawmakers say

“The people who have never used these products before, never even thought about using drugs, because it's illegal, they're going to go and try and figure out what it does,” says Rice.

Some lawmakers say that legalization would go long way toward helping with social justice issues.

“Marijuana's been a part of our communities for a very long time. It's been a focus on profiling African-Americans, the data is there,” says Democratic state Assemblyman Jamel Holley.

Holley has been advocating for expungement for previous marijuana convictions, to go along with recreational legalization.

“We're talking about expedited expungements. We are talking about not having that barrier of those individuals who want to get into this market. We're talking about giving some relief and we're talking about creating opportunities, specifically for minorities, women and disabled veterans,” says Holley.

But Rice says that this is not about social justice. He says that he is concerned about large corporations and lobbyists who may come to New Jersey to take over the legal market.

“It’s not about social justice. It's about the same old thing: treating minorities, particularly black folk, like chattel, property and ATM machines,” says Rice.

Gov. Murphy has not commented publicly on the state Senate's failure to approve the bill. The governor's communications staff told News 12 New Jersey that their office does not comment on pending legislation.

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