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New Jersey Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization In Budget Proposal

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who campaigned on legalizing marijuana, is counting on tax revenue from the expected legal sales of cannabis in his first budget proposal.

“According to research, New Jersey spends upwards of $140 million per year adjudicating low-level marijuana possession offenses. And, marijuana-related arrest rates are tilted three-to-one against African-Americans, even though rates of marijuana use are similar among races,” Murphy said in a budget address on Tuesday. “These resources must have a better use, whether to tackle the trafficking of illegal guns, provide stronger community policing, or to crack the back of our opioid epidemic, which was devastating our urban centers long before it made headlines.”

Murphy’s budget document says the administration “plans to legalize adult-use marijuana by January 1, 2019” and projects $80 million in related revenue in the first fiscal year.

The governor also took the opportunity in his address to hit back at fellow Democrats who have proposed merely decriminalizing possession of cannabis instead of taxing and regulating its sale and production.

“Decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids, and it will not end the racial disparities we see,” he said. “If these are our goals – as they must be – then the only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults.”

Telling lawmakers he is “committed to working with you to get this passed this year,” Murphy said ending prohibition would benefit populations that have been harmed by harsh drug enforcement.

“Legalization will allow us to reinvest directly in our communities – especially the urban neighborhoods hardest hit by the misguided War on Drugs – in their economic development, in health care and housing, child care and after-school programs, and other critical areas. These investments will pay dividends far greater than the cost of mass incarceration,” he said. “I did not come to this overnight, myself. After all, we are the parents of four children under the age of 21. But from the standpoint of social justice, and from the standpoint of protecting our kids and lifting up our communities, I could not arrive at any other conclusion.”

Murphy reiterated his cannabis campaign promise during his inaugural address in January.

New Jersey Governor Promises Legal Marijuana In Inauguration Speech

Shortly after taking office, Murphy issued an executive order aimed at expanding the state’s current limited medical cannabis program.

New Jersey Governor Orders Medical Marijuana Expansion

The budget document says Murphy wants New Jersey to “join other progressive states such as California, Massachusetts, Washington, and Colorado by legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana.”

Photo courtesy of Phil Murphy.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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