The governor of New Jersey said on Tuesday that legalizing marijuana could simultaneously help the state recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic while also promoting racial justice.
During an interview on the radio program Jim Kerr Anytime, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) recognized that the state is going to need to be innovative to generate revenue amid the health crisis. A co-host said cannabis could be part of the solution and the governor agreed.
“As you probably know, I’ve been on that from day one. The legislature hasn’t been able to get there yet, but absolutely. That’s, to me, an incredibly smart thing to do,” Murphy said. “We’re not inventing marijuana. It exists.”
“It’s got a huge social justice piece for me. The overwhelming percentage of persons nailed in our criminal justice system are persons of color. It’s a no-brainer in that respect,” he said. “It’s a job creator, it’s a tax revenue raiser, it checks a lot of boxes. I hope we’ll get there sooner than later.”
Listen to the governor discuss cannabis reform, starting around 8:10 into the audio below:
While the legislature has been unable to pass a marijuana legalization bill, they did approve legislation to put a referendum on the issue before voters on the November ballot. In the meantime, the state Assembly passed a cannabis decriminalization bill last month that would make possession of up to two ounces a civil penalty without the threat of jail time.
Separately, the state’s health department recently announced that it will allow medical cannabis dispensaries to deliver products to patients.
In neighboring Pennsylvania, the majority of Democratic senators sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders last week, similarly arguing that lawmakers should pursue adult-use legalization in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was asked in May about whether marijuana legalization could serve as a tool for economic recovery and he expressed support for the proposal, stating that while the legislature hasn’t yet accomplished the policy change, “I believe we will” down the line.