For my entire adult life, I’ve been the guy people call when they have questions about marijuana. Cancer diagnosis in the family and you need edibles? Call Jay. Confused about which other states will honor your NJ medical cannabis ID? Call Jay. Curious about how to break into the cannabis industry? You get the idea.
Recently, the pot queries are all about the upcoming referendum to legalize adult-use cannabis in NJ. A referendum is what we ended up when NJ lawmakers spectacularly failed to reform NJ’s cannabis laws the old fashioned way.
The questions about NJ’s referendum are often more basic than you might expect.
“Jay, I received my General Election mail-in ballot today and I am confused,” Kate, my neighbor, texted last night. “Isn’t there supposed to be a referendum re: marijuana in NJ this fall?”
It turns out, the referendum appears on the flip side of NJ ballot, a design quirk that could degrade the referendum vote by as much as a third.
It’s the kind of thing that keeps Axel Owen up at night. Mr Owens runs NJCAN2020, a coalition of pro-cannabis orgs dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition in NJ.
“The fact that we are on the back of the ballot is a major concern,” Mr Owen told InsiderNJ. “Every poll released has shown the ballot question with broad support and a wide lead. But if voters do not turn over their ballot to vote yes, this race could get very close, very quickly. That’s why we are asking everyone to #TurnThePage and vote Yes on Public Question #1.”
NJ’s poorly-designed ballot isn’t the only reason why legalization-by-referendum was a lousy choice.
In November of 2016, a delegation of NJ lawmakers, lobbyists, and regulators trekked out to Denver to learn about Colorado’s burgeoning cannabis industry. I covered the junket for
Leafly and for Observer and vividly recally when State Senator Pat Steadman explained the downside of legalization by referendum.
Maria Rodriguez-Gregg was a two-term state lawmaker from Burlington County. She was on the Denver trip.
“They warned us against legalization by referendum for a number of reasons including continued racial (arrest) disparities, issues with banking, and law enforcement,” Ms Rodriguez told InsiderNJ. “But mostly, this referendum represents the New Jersey legislature’s inability to legislate on the important issue of legalization, an issue that they already know their constituents overwhelmingly support.” Ms Rodriguez was joined in Denver by Senate President Steve Sweeney who, after lawmakers diddled, ultimately green-lighted the referendum.
Halfway through this draft another referendum question arrived via text. This time from my friend Jess.
“Hey Jay, if this weed question passes, do you know what it means for people currently serving jail time for weed?”
If Garden State voters legalize cannabis on Nov 3, it won’t help people in jail for weed right away. That would require post-referendum legislation. Trenton punted legalization to the voters precisely because they couldn’t figure out things like expungements.
When NJ legalizes marijuana in November, it won’t include provisions for home-grown cannabis, not even for medical users. Instead, cannabis consumers will fork over $500 (or more) for an ounce of lab-grown cannabis to a cartel of politically-connected dispensaries. Outside of low-level dispensary gigs, average folk will be largely shut out of the cannabis industry in NJ.
Enshrining, a corporate cannabis model into the NJ constitution
was hardly the pitch I hoped to be making to fellow voters.
But here we are.
And now that I’ve driven your expectations into the toilet, I hope you’ll join me voting YES to legalize cannabis in NJ.
When I votes YES to legalize cannabis in NJ, I’ll be thinking of fewer pot arrests and cheaper cannabis for medical consumers.
And I’ll be lamenting missed opportunities and all the activism left to do pressuring lawmakers who can’t kick the can on expungements forever.
(Visited 226 times, 228 visits today)
Also, Check out our Top 50 CBD E Juices in 2020