N.J. voters weigh constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana

Marijuana buds are seen in a prescription bottle

File photo: Marijuana buds are seen in a prescription bottle as they are sorted at Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

New Jerseyans casting their ballots in the general election will also get to weigh in on whether the state should legalize recreational marijuana.

If passed, the Garden State would join eleven other states and Washington, D.C. in having legal recreational cannabis.

Proponents tout the social justice benefits of legalization in a state where Black residents are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for possessing the drug than their white counterparts, according to the ACLU-NJ.

“We don’t want to saddle people with criminal convictions for the rest of their lives for something that most of the country believes should be legalized,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU-NJ.

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But some opponents worry about how the drug will be regulated if legalized, an issue that would be taken up by lawmakers and regulators in the days and weeks following the vote.

“The ballot question, the constitutional amendment, does nothing at all to limit the potency of marijuana,” said Gregg Edwards, executive director of the anti-legalization group Don’t Let New Jersey Go To Pot. “And it doesn’t prohibit the kinds of products that can be sold.”

Edwards instead supports decriminalizing the drug.

Democratic state lawmakers tried to legalize cannabis through legislation last year but called off a vote over lack of support. They decided to put the issue of legalization directly to voters as a ballot question instead.

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The constitutional amendment would legalize cannabis, designate a government body to regulate it, and subject it to the state sales tax.

“We’ll have fewer police interactions with the public, which is really important, especially in communities of color where those unnecessary interactions can so often escalate into tragic outcomes,” Sinha said. “And we’ll have a revenue stream coming into New Jersey during the midst of a financial crisis.”

Currently New Jersey only allows the sale of marijuana for medical use.

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