N.J. Governor Race Will Likely Determine Legalization’s Chances In 2018

Clifford Robinson played for the New Jersey Nets from 2005-2007, and lived in New Jersey after retiring from the NBA after an 18-year career in the league. Having grown up in a neighboring state (New York), Robinson has spent a lot of time in New Jersey and has witnessed the failures of cannabis prohibition first hand. That’s why Clifford Robinson has always supported cannabis reform efforts in the Garden State.

Possession of less than 50 grams of cannabis in New Jersey carries a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalties are even greater for possession of over 50 grams, and for cultivating or distributing any amount of cannabis. The state of New Jersey is arresting people for cannabis at an alarming rate, and to make matters worse, African Americans are being arrested at three times the rate of Caucasians. Cannabis prohibition in New Jersey is a failed, harmful public policy in every measurable way.

Unfortunately New Jersey is home to one of the biggest cannabis opponents on the planet – current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie once stated that he would veto a cannabis decriminalization bill, and was very clear as a candidate for president that he would crackdown on states that have voted to legalize cannabis. Chris Christie really, really hates cannabis and apparently those that use it. But, fortunately for the state of New Jersey Chris Christie is on his way out of office. In roughly two weeks the state of New Jersey will be voting for a new Governor.

The two major party candidates are Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, and Republican nominee Kim Guadagno. The two candidates disagree on issues related to cannabis policy. Phil Murphy has stated a number of times that he supports full legalization, while Kim Guadagno wants to keep adult-use prohibition in place (although she has expressed support for expanding medical cannabis in New Jersey).

According to a poll from last month Phil Murphy has a hefty lead in the race. But, as is always the case in politics, nothing is a sure thing. If you live in New Jersey and are a sensible cannabis policy supporter, make sure to vote in the November election and tell everyone you know to do the same. As media outlets in New Jersey have pointed out leading up to election day, the vote for New Jersey’s next Governor will largely determine the chances of cannabis being legalized in New Jersey in 2018. In theory anything can happen regardless of who gets elected, but it will be an extremely uphill battle to legalize in New Jersey if Guadagno wins. A Phil Murphy victory does not guarantee legalization, but it does significantly improve the odds of it happening.

A reform victory in New Jersey would be a victory for cannabis legalization efforts nationwide, as it would build momentum for reform victories elsewhere. Because Chris Christie has clung so hard to cannabis prohibition in New Jersey for so long, a lot of eyes have been on New Jersey from both the pro-reform and anti-reform communities. Two states in the Northeastern part of the country (Maine and Massachusetts) have already legalized cannabis and adding New Jersey to that list would be significant, especially since other states in the area are expected to legalize cannabis via legislative action sooner rather than later.  New Jersey would be a huge cannabis reform domino if it were to fall.

Poll: Strong Support For Ending Cannabis Prohibition In New Jersey

While playing for the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets) from 2005 to 2007, Cliff Robinson saw first hand that the failures of cannabis prohibition in New Jersey. Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on New Jersey’s African American community. Arrest data shows that African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis in New Jersey compared to Caucasians.

In some parts of New Jersey, the disparity is even greater. In Pleasant Beach, New Jersey African Americans are 31.8 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis. That is obviously unacceptable. No one should be arrested for possessing and/or consuming a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. It is beyond time that New Jersey got on the right side of history and ended cannabis prohibition. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, such a move would have strong support from New Jersey voters. Per the poll:

Garden State voters support 59 – 38 percent allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Every listed group supports legalized marijuana, except Republicans, who are opposed 53 – 43 percent, and voters over 65 years old, who are divided, with 47 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed.

The biggest hurdle to legalization in New Jersey is its Governor, Chris Christie. Fortunately Chris Christie is on his way out of office, and a new person will be leading New Jersey after the 2018 election. As it stands right now, the front runner to succeed Governor Christie is candidate Phil Murphy. Democrat Phil Murphy has a 25 point lead over his Republican rival New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno according to the previously mentioned Quinnipiac poll. How does candidate Phil Murphy feel about cannabis reform? Per a recent NJ.com article:

Murphy promises to join states like Colorado that have legalized recreational use of pot. In fact, it’s part of how he plans to shore up a $1.3 billion tax hike in the state to help pay for all sorts of state spending programs he’s promised on the campaign trail.

For the record, candidate Kim Guadagno does not support legalization. A lot of time is left between now and Election Day, so it’s still anyone’s race despite Murphy’s enormous lead. But the recent poll results showing strong support for legalization, and the expressed desire to end cannabis prohibition by the upcoming election’s front runner is extremely encouraging. The Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that legalization comes to New Jersey sooner rather than later. Free the plant!