A New Jersey state lawmaker introduced a bill Monday to make recreational marijuana legal in the Garden State.
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari's legislation would limit cannabis purchases to people 21 years and older. Home-growing would not be legal, he said.
The Democrat from Union Township was one of the architects of New Jersey’s medical marijuana bill, which has been fraught with restrictive provisions and costly fees. If the new bill passes, New Jersey would become the ninth state to legalize recreational cannabis.
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On Monday, Scutari said he wants the legislation ready by this time next year.
"The national trend is toward legalization," Scutari told NJ Advance Media on Friday. "It's absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway."
Neighboring Delaware is also considering legalizing pot. Last week, the General Assembly’s House Revenue and Finance Committee voted to advance legalization legislation. A full House vote is pending as the bill's sponsors iron out the kinks.
Under HB 110, the state would regulate cannabis much like alcohol. Only people over the age of 21 could purchase marijuana and driving under the influence would be illegal.
In national poll conducted last month, 83 percent of respondents said they supported legalizing medical marijuana. Roughly half supported recreational cannabis while 47 percent said they are opposed.
Almost 62 percent said they wouldn’t use pot for pain even if it were legal.
Moving forward with any effort to expand the state’s marijuana program would be hampered by Gov. Chris Christie, who is vehemently against recreational cannabis and dubious about its medicinal properties.
Last year, Christie argued that legalizing marijuana could lead to legalizing cocaine and heroin. He accused Democrats of “poisoning” young people by accepting “blood money.”
Christie’s final term is up in January and it is rumored he is under consideration to become drug czar under President Donald Trump.