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Ballot Question Amending State Constitution to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis Overwhelmingly Approved By Voters

The ballot question which asked to amend the State Constitution to provide for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey was approved by New Jersey voters.

The ballot question (formerly bill ACR-840) was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake and Angela McKnight.

“I became interested in legalization due to the inequalities in the enforcement of cannabis laws and their long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but, considerably, those of color,” said Assemblywoman Quijano (D-Union). “We will listen to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and take a common-sense and justice-focused approach to the regulation of cannabis. This is a new arena for New Jersey law and the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”

The constitutional amendment will allow the State to adopt a new approach to cannabis policies by taxing, regulating and legalizing cannabis sales and consumption for adults, 21 years of age.

“A key component to cannabis legalization was addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities,” said Assemblyman Holley (D-Union). “This is an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses. Voters have approved. Now it’s time to get to work.”

New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests constituted three out of five drug arrests also in 2012.

The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.

“As a prime sponsor, it is important to ensure the legislation includes real enterprising opportunity. This, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission which requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake (D-Essex). “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the coming legislation will be imperative.”

“Undoubtedly, this will be the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission,” said Assemblywoman McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use.  We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country with regard to legalization. New Jersey voters have spoken.”

New Jersey will join Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have legalized the adult-use of cannabis that permits the cultivation and sale of cannabis establishing regulated revenue-producing markets.