As the first quarter of the year nears its end, New Jersey may see a revised version of the legalized marijuana legislation become the topic of discussion. For some close to the legislative world, the most recent information indicates this measure may be the one to pass and receive the governor’s signature.

The newest legislation has been a long time coming, compared to Governor Phil Murphy’s continued pressure on legislators to legalize recreational use. This measure has a tax that is acceptable to more legislators, according to anonymous sources that aren’t permitted to speak publicly on the issue, and bringing it that much closer to reality as a successful legislative measure.

A meeting is set within the next week for the state Senate President, Gov. Murphy and the state Assembly Speaker to discuss the current top issues, including marijuana legalization. Some say that meeting can be the catalyst to the final vote and successful passage of the bill.

Taxes remain a sticking point, at least according to the last public update, as the state Senate president is firm on wanting 12% and the governor maintains a strong preference for 25%. Meanwhile, regulations may have been an area that saw significant progress.

Legislators maintain concern that if the bill does not become the main topic before March, it will again have to wait until after budget negotiations have worked their way through the legislature.

Meanwhile, the idea of putting the measure on the ballot for voters to weigh in on is a scary prospect for some in New Jersey. While the measure has been passed by voters in several states, including Michigan and Utah, the process involving voters’ approval can actually set the Legislature back rather than mean progress.

If the ballot includes marijuana legalization and the majority of voters approve, the move to erase marijuana convictions would become more difficult. Therefore, those who have criminal records and do not receive relief when the measure passes from that clouded past would be more inclined to work in the industry.

The move to put the question on the ballot would require a supermajority of the legislature to approve in one session or a simple majority in two sessions, meaning 60% of the legislature would have to be behind the idea. Then, once the voters approved, the regulations and setup of the industry for New Jersey could take a year or more anyway.

The addition of a question to the NJ ballot simply means the residents are in favour of a change to the state constitution — if the question receives a majority affirmative answer. Therefore, the bill would still need to be passed to handle the details, including regulation and taxation — the main sticking points currently.

The move really won’t benefit the push to legalize marijuana, it would be a stopgap measure. If the residents vote against legalizing, it would allow the legislature to stop considering the move altogether.

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