NJ Lawmakers Postpone Vote On Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

March 25, 2019 - 12:42 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Marijuana legalization in New Jersey is not happening for now.

Top lawmakers say they couldn't secure enough votes in favor of legalizing marijuana so it'll have to wait.

A scheduled vote was called off on Monday and postponed indefinitely. 

"While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy," State Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement.

Gov. Phil Murphy, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin spent the weekend trying to make some lawmakers pledge their support for legal pot.

“Change is never easy it takes hard work and sometimes it takes letting go of long-held opinions,” Gov. Murphy said.

He adds that he was disappointed but not shocked. He and Sweeney plan to renew their efforts and say as soon as they have 21 votes, the measure will be back up for a vote.

"We need to learn from this experience and continue to move forward," Sweeney said. "The Senate was very close to 21 votes and, with more education and advocacy; I believe we will get this legislation across the finish line."

RELATED: What To Know Ahead Of Monday's Marijuana Vote In NJ

But the bill is dead, according to Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action. He says lawmakers weren't willing to take the risk on what he calls a "bad bill" and he doesn't think any further efforts from Sweeney will be any more successful.

"Frankly, he's not going to want to do it closer to an election, so I don't know when they are going to do it," Sabet said.

He adds: "This really has major, national implications, that in such a deep blue state, legalization is not inevitable>"

Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the ACLU-NJ, says their efforts fighting in favor of the bill will only get louder from here.

"We have the time to target the lawmakers that we think are in need of the most education and make sure that we do the work that we need to do in order to get it done," Sinha said.

Murphy believes there’s a great deal at stake, saying, “It’s thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity.”

Murphy said the legislation offers a chance for people with low-level pot convictions to ask that their records be wiped clean. Under the bill, residents would be able to posses an ounce, which could be smoked in a private residence or at a sanctioned lounge, not in public.

Murphy figures it would take about a year for cultivators, processors, wholesales and dispensaries to get up and running.

Sixty towns have already indicated they don’t want any part in the pot business.