TRENTON, NJ — New Jersey’s next governor will be kinder on marijuana than the outgoing Chris Christie, who has been the state’s largest roadblock to marijuana reform, from slowing implementation of medical marijuana in the state to blocking any attempts to legalize or decriminalize the plant.
Both major party candidates elected in Tuesday’s primaries, Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno, support expanding the state’s medical marijuana program and reducing penalties for marijuana possession.
However, unlike Guadagno, Democrat Phil Murphy supports marijuana legalization for adult recreational use, and spoke of legalization during a victory speech Tuesday night.
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Murphy said. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
Guadagno, who supports expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, doesn’t want to legalize marijuana for adults. The Republican, currently serving as the state’s lieutenant governor under marijuana foe Chris Christie, does support decriminalizing personal possession of marijuana.
During a debate earlier this year, Guadagno expressed concerns over people driving while high as a primary reason to not support legalization.
“I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said. “Having said that, however, I completely agree that we should decriminalize it. No one should suffer because of the color of their skin or because of their social background or because they were picked up with a small quantity.”
Currently in New Jersey, possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana can land an offender in jail for up to six months, with fines up to $1,000. Those caught with more than 50 grams, or those busted selling or growing cannabis, face stiffer fines and longer prison sentences.
Regardless of who becomes the governor of New Jersey next January, marijuana reform advocates will have reason to celebrate.
Since becoming Governor of New Jersey in 2010, Chris Christie has been a vocal opponent of the state’s medical marijuana program, calling it a “front” for legalization. Christie repeatedly stated that he would not approve any additional improvements to the state’s medical marijuana program — who’s implementation was significantly delayed by the Christie Administration — and that marijuana legalization in New Jersey would not happen “on my watch.”
The same day, Christie let two bills awaiting his signature expire, both becoming a victims of a “pocket veto.” One of those bills would have licensed industrial hemp cultivation in the state upon approval from the federal government, and the other would have extended important patient protections to medical marijuana patients in the state.
During his first term in office as Governor of New Jersey, Christie earned a grade of D+ for his overall record on civil liberties and civil rights from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), including drug policy and gay rights issues.
During Gov. Christie’s failed attempt at securing the Republican nomination for President, he promised to crack down on marijuana legalization.
Chris Christie has served the maximum number of terms allowed for governor in New Jersey, and is ineligible for re-election. The general election will be held Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
The new governor, and a new era of marijuana reform in New Jersey, will be sworn into office in January 2018.
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