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New Jersey Governor Promotes Marijuana Legalization Referendum In New Ad

In case he hasn’t made it abundantly clear already, the governor of New Jersey wants residents to vote in favor of a referendum to legalize marijuana this November.

In his latest call-to-action, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) recorded a video that was released on Tuesday by the pro-legalization coalition NJ CAN 2020 to promote the measure.

The governor made the case that the ongoing criminalization of cannabis in New Jersey wastes taxpayer dollars, and he emphasized that prohibition is enforced in a racially disproportionate manner.

“$150 million. That’s what processing marijuana arrests cost New Jersey taxpayers every year—arrests that disproportionately impact young people of color and make it harder for them to get a job, a place to live, even a credit card,” Murphy said. “Join me in correcting this wrong by voting ‘yes’ on Public Question Number One to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana.”

“Eleven states and Washington, D.C. are already reaping the benefits of the job creation, economic development and, importantly, social justice reform that comes with legalization and regulation,” he added. “It’s time for us in New Jersey to join them. And it’s up to you to make it happen.”

Murphy also flagged for voters that the legalization referendum may be on the backside of their ballot and that they should make sure they don’t inadvertently skip it.

“Marijuana prohibition and the unjust penalties associated with it have done real damage to New Jersey’s black and brown communities,” he said. “Let’s fix it and turn the page on prohibition and on your ballot.”

Murphy, who said in a recent interview that the marijuana reform proposal prioritizes social justice, will also be a featured speaker at a virtual fundraiser on Thursday that’s being organized by NJ CAN 2020.

“I wish we could have gotten it done through a legislative process,” he said in the Sunday TV appearance, referencing lawmakers’ inability to advance a legalization bill last session. “We just couldn’t find the last few votes, so it’s on the referendum. I’m strongly supporting it—first and foremost for social justice reasons.”

Last week, Murphy similarly called on voters to support the proposal in an email blast that was circulated by the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.

“Legalization would right those wrongs while also spurring massive economic development opportunities, job creation, and new tax revenue,” the governor wrote. “Now, we have the opportunity to get this done and finally legalize adult-use marijuana here in the Garden State, and I need your help to make it happen.”

He said in July that legalizing cannabis is “an incredibly smart thing to do” both from an economic and social justice perspective.

The governor isn’t alone in his attempts to get out the vote for cannabis reform. Filmmaker Kevin Smith last week urged his Twitter followers to “VOTE YES when you see State Public Question Number 1: Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Marijuana.”

Legislators attempted to enact the policy change during the last session, but when negotiations stalled, they opted to put the question to voters in the form of a referendum. If the measure is approved on Election Day, the legislature will then have to pass implementing legislation containing details for how the legal cannabis market will work.

Recent polling indicates that the proposal has strong support among New Jersey voters. A survey from the law firm Brach Eichler that was released last month shows that 65 percent of likely voters are in favor of the policy change. That’s consistent with the results of a poll the firm published in August, signaling that support is steady.

NJ CAN 2020, a coalition of civil rights and drug policy reform groups, launched their first video ad promoting the legalization referendum last month as well.

In June, the state Assembly passed a cannabis decriminalization bill that would make possession of up to two ounces a civil penalty without the threat of jail time, though it hasn’t advanced in the Senate.


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