New Jersey’s path to legalization of marijuana was years in the making

Recreational marijuana went on sale across New Jersey on Thursday. It comes after years of setbacks and legislative wrangling.

News 12 Staff

Apr 21, 2022, 9:28 PM

Updated 825 days ago

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Recreational marijuana went on sale across New Jersey on Thursday. It comes after years of setbacks and legislative wrangling.
Gov. Phil Murphy says that the state is expecting to make at least $19 million in tax revenue over the first two months of marijuana sales. Looking at the long lines at Zen Leaf in Lawrence, it is easy to see why.
The legalization of marijuana in New Jersey is a long day coming for those who felt that prohibition stigmatized marijuana use and was a weapon to further racial discrimination.
“I had to come in here because it’s a historic day. Unfortunately, a lot of my people were unfairly and unjustly tried, you know, when it comes to persecution when it comes to weed,” said Ilo Odiaka, of New Brunswick.
Odiaka bought the same type of product that’s ruined the lives of countless young African American men like him for decades.
“This is buds. So, I’m going to break these down, you know, in a bong preferably and inhale,” he said.
Day 1 for Zen Leaf in Elizabeth began with pre-dawn preparations.
“We’ve been having delivery after delivery to ensure we have all the products necessary,” said Zen Leaf Elizabeth general manager Sonny Achrekar.
The day marks the end of a campaign pledge Murphy made five years earlier.
“If we had only built a system that encouraged the big players to be in New Jersey, it would’ve been a lot easier and a lot faster,” the governor said.
As a newly elected senator in 2004, state Sen. Nick Scutari said he wanted to legalize marijuana but people laughed at him.
“It’s not any different than what was in my head. I’m happy. I wanted to see long lines. I wanted to be proven right for once,” Scutari said.
No one is laughing now.
“There were a lot of lives that were destroyed or lost, a lot of economic potential that was never recognized over all these years. And so that ends now. And it begins. And today is only the beginning. It’s step one,” Scutari said.
Most others say that they are glad that they can finally consume marijuana legally.
“For 29 years of my life, this has been illegal. This has been a stigma, stigmatized,” said Achrekar. “So now today’s the day we can start the process where we get rid of that stigma."
“This is my treaty. My treaty to show we won the war on drugs,” said Roy Colonna, of North Plainfield.
Questions have been raised over the fact that a lot of the dispensaries selling on the first day appear to be owned by big companies, but Murphy says that the final marijuana market in New Jersey will include small operators and minority-owned businesses.


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