Trenton lawmakers hear arguments for and against marijuana legalization

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Legislators in the Assembly and Senate in Trenton heard arguments Thursday for legalization of marijuana by changing the state Constitution.

“Should this question be placed on the 2020 ballot, voters will have the final say. And I am confident they will support the amendment,” said Assemblyman Joe Danielsen.

The constitutional amendment needs to be approved by the voters. Supporters are hopeful the amendment that legalizes the cultivation, consumption and possession of marijuana for those who are 21 years old or over will be on the ballot in November 2020.

MORE: Recreational marijuana legalization likely to be decided by NJ voters 

Most who spoke in the Assembly committee were in favor of legalization, while some others were opposed.

“Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. And legalizing recreational marijuana is a bad idea because it has a long track record of victims,” said Sean Hyland, of Family Policy Alliance New Jersey.

“The real reason behind all of this is because all the politicians are going to get all the money from all the blue suits behind me who work for all these organizations who think this is wonderful and they're going to donate to your campaign,” said Barbara Ames, of Morris Patriots.

Even some advocates pointed out what the constitutional amendment will not be able to do.

“People don't understand what they're voting on. There's no tax rate because there can't be. There is no racial or social justice set-asides because there can't be,” said Bill Caruso, of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. “We stand ready to work to get expungement reform done. In the meantime, we stand ready to get decriminalization - real decriminalization - done in the meantime.”

A full vote in the Assembly and Senate is planned for Monday. If Monday's vote passes by three-fifths of the Assembly and Senate, the amendment would go on the ballot for 2020. If the vote total is not that high, the Legislature will have to vote again when the new session begins in the middle of January 2020.

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