You need to applaud the efforts of voters and the cannabis advocates that have provided the education people needed to make well informed decisions concerning marijuana law reform last night. New Jersey has made an entire 180 degree turn on their state’s representation concerning marijuana legalization. Phil Murphy is going to be the new governor and with his support it is likely that New Jersey will be a fully recreational marijuana state without voters forcing the issue. Considering how strong of an opponent the sitting governor, Chris Christie, is on marijuana legalization, voters could not have been more clear about how much they disagreed with his stance.
Virginia’s soon to be new governor, Ralph Northam, is likely to push for major marijuana law reform as well. Ohio is taking a different route towards cannabis law reform with voters using their leverage in individual towns to allow people to possess and grow marijuana. It is likely to leave the state of Ohio as a whole with little choice but to expand their medical marijuana rules. If last night was an indication at all of the future of marijuana law reform for the country, how are you feeling about the elections for 2018?
Here’s an overview of cannabis-specific ballot measures that voters approved, along with details on how the Democratic gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia will boost marijuana reform campaigns in those states.
New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy
Phil Murphy, the incoming governor, campaigned on marijuana legalization.
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” he said during his primary night victory speech. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
This summer he tweeted, “NJ’s marijuana laws cost $143M/yr & come w a 3:1 racial disparity in arrests.”
With Murphy replacing vocal cannabis opponent Chris Christie (R) as governor, New Jersey is poised to potentially become the first state to allow legal recreational marijuana sales with an act of its legislature, as opposed to by voters through a ballot measure.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) is “committed” to bringing up a legalization bill early in 2018. “We are going to have a new governor in January 2018,” he said. “As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it.”
Virginia Governor-Elect Ralph Northam
Ralph Northam, who just got a raise from lieutenant governor to the state’s top job, made marijuana decriminalization a centerpiece of his campaign, often putting the issue in stark racial justice terms.
“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana,” he wrote in a blog post. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement — money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”
Athens, Ohio Marijuana Ordinance
Voters in the college town overwhelmingly approved a measure to completely eliminate fines and court costs for possessing and cultivating up to 200 grams of marijuana, a move that advocates believe will significantly disincentivize police from making low-level cannabis arrests. The result was 77 percent to 23 percent.
Last year, similar depenalization measures were passed in several other Ohio cities. Together, the results increase pressure on state lawmakers to more seriously consider further reform’s to overarching marijuana prohibition laws following last year’s passage of medical cannabis legislation.