The people of New Jersey could be given the opportunity to decide whether they want to legalize recreational marijuana use in November 2020.

State lawmakers pulled the plug on proposed legislation that sought to permit adult-use cannabis sales. They decided instead to put the question to voters in a referendum slated to take place next year.

The resolution will need to gain 60% support in the House and the Senate if it is to make it onto the ballot next year. If it cannot gain approval from three-fifths of lawmakers, it would require a simple majority in two consecutive years.

It makes it unlikely that Gov. Phil Murphy will be able to deliver on a key campaign promise – legalizing adult-use marijuana by 2021 – but it is a step in the right direction. Recreational cannabis use has been legalized in 11 states and Illinois was the only one that did not do so via a public referendum.


“We made further attempts to generate additional support in the Senate to get this done legislatively, but we recognize that the votes just aren’t there,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a joint statement with advocate Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

Sweeney added that he respected the positions taken by lawmakers on “an issue of conscience”. He feels that voter turnout will be maximized next year due to the national election, so that would be an ideal time to ask Garden State residents on whether they want to see adult-use marijuana legalized.

A Monmouth University poll conducted earlier this year suggested that 62% of New Jersey residents favour cannabis legalization, compared to 32% that oppose it and 6% that are unsure. If it ends up on the ballot in 2020, there is a strong chance that voters will give it the green light, kick-starting the process of setting a legislative framework for the state.

New Jersey legalized medical cannabis in 2010, when outgoing Gov. John Corzine signed the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act into law. The state’s medical marijuana program now serves more than 60,000 people suffering from a range of conditions.

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