Recreational marijuana legalization likely to be decided by NJ voters

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New Jersey voters will likely decide on if recreational marijuana will become legal in the state.

New Jersey lawmakers will likely vote on if the questions should be put on the ballot in 2020. They are doing this after they failed to agree on legislation to legalize adult use recreational marijuana this past March.

There was hope that a legalization bill could come up after the 2019 November election during the so-called lame duck session, but there does not seem to be enough support.

“The last count that I had heard was they needed to convince still six senators to get on board and they just weren’t able to convince all six,” says political expert Micah Rasmussen of the nonpartisan Rebovich Institute.

Rasmussen says that a large Republican resistance to legalization meant that those in favor of it needed heavy Democratic support in the state Senate.

RELATED: NJ lawmakers planning question for 2020 ballot to legalize marijuana 
RELATED: ACLU: NJ marijuana arrests jump about 35% over 4 years 

"There is some resistance within the Democratic Legislature to legalization,” says Rasmussen. “Particularly among older legislators and some African American legislators and some urban legislators just don't think this is a good idea for their community."

State Senate President Steve Sweeney said this week that Legislature will vote - probably twice - to get the question on the ballot.

"Before this Legislature expires and leaves at the beginning of January, there could be a vote - one vote - and then the second vote could take place in January after the new Legislature is in,” Rasmussen says.

Turnout from both liberals and conservatives is expected to be high in 2020 due to the presidential race. Rasmussen says that he expects the airwaves to be bombarded by pro- and anti-pot messages.

"You're going to see an attempt to win them over regardless of whether they're voting with [President Donald] Trump or against Trump,” he says. “You'll see a big effort to bring out those voters and turn them into pro-pot voters for next November."

A House committee in Washington approved a bill Wednesday that strikes down the federal ban on marijuana used. Sen. Cory Booker is one of the co-sponsors of the federal Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

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