Marijuana legalization is one of the few issues in which your vote for New Jersey governor will really determine the state's next move.
After eight years of Gov. Chris Christie's antipathy toward marijuana — going so far as delaying efforts to launch the medical marijuana program — voters will have distinctly different options in 2018.
Leaders in the Democratic-led state Legislature are ready to push through legislation to legalize pot for people 21 and older. But the governor must be on board.
A victory for Republican nominee Kim Guadagno means you won't be able to legally smoke marijuana unless you are enrolled in the medical marijuana program. She shares Christie's opposition to legalizing Cannabis for recreational purposes.
But pot possession would be decriminalized — an offense punishable by a fine instead of incarceration. Guadagno also said she would shed some of the Christie-era regulations to improve access to medical marijuana program.
"There is a less intrusive way to solve the social injustice problem than legalizing drug dealers," Guadagno said at the first gubernatorial debate. "I am wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana. Having said that I, do believe we can decriminalize it."
Electing Democrat Phil Murphy means New Jersey would soon join eight other states in legalizing marijuana for people 21 and older and creating what is predicted to be a multibillion-dollar industry. He's promised to sign a legalization bill into law within the first 100 days of his term.
Murphy said he sees legalizing marijuana as a solution to the social justice problem of higher arrest and conviction rates for blacks than white.
"That is the reason we want to legalize marijuana — not because we can make money off of it. That's the last reason," Murphy said during the first debate.
Genovese wants to hold a referendum so voters can decide whether marijuana should be legal. All eight states that legalized cannabis did so through a referendum.
"Can we afford to lose approximately $300 Million per year in sales tax revenues?" according to Genovese's website. "Can we afford to continue spending $143 Million per year just to enforce marijuana possession laws? This $300 Million can be dedicated to reducing property taxes by at least 15 percent."
SETH KAPER-DALE, Green Party
Kaper-Dale supports legalizing marijuana and using the sales tax revenue for drug treatment, public education on the risks associated with drug abuse, and economic development in cities.
"Additionally the state of New Jersey would partner with poor communities and groups of people stigmatized when seeking work (the disabled, transgender persons and the formerly incarcerated) to launch partnerships between the state and workers for the production and sale of marijuana in order to power a people’s economy," according to his website. "Under our plan, workers would truly benefit from their labor rather than allowing big companies to monopolize this new economic opportunity."
MATT RICCARDI, Constitution Party:
Riccardi said he would let voters decide on legalization and would support a referendum in 2018. He would call for monthly forums at which the experts and the public could discuss the pros and cons before the vote.
"I believe a well-educated public, discussing the issue before a vote is the most democratic way of choosing whether or not to legalize marijuana in the state of New Jersey," Riccardi wrote in an email to NJ Advance Media.
PETER ROHRMAN, Libertarian Party
Rohrman supports legalizing marijuana, and ending the "failed" War on Drugs.
"Substance abuse is a personal, medical issue, not a public crime," according to his website.
"Immediately pardon all non-violent criminals in our state prisons. Treat addiction with compassion and rehabilitation instead of brutality and incarceration. Stop wasting taxpayer money on putting sick people in jail."
What the public says:
Public support for legalizing marijuana reached an all-time high this month, according to a new Gallup Poll.
Nearly two-thirds of the country, 64 percent, say marijuana use should be legal. That includes 51 percent of people who identified themselves as Republicans, according to the survey of 1,028 participants representing all 50 states and Washington D.C.
New Jersey follows the national trajectory of support for legal pot.
A Quinnipiac University in September found 59 percent of New Jerseyans support recreational marijuana use.
A recent NJ Advance Media report on marijuana in the governor's race drew more than 1,000 reader comments. A sampling:
"Every. Single. State. That has legalized Cannabis has seen a windfall of cash from taxes, decreased their states opioid use, and lessened the black market for drugs in the state. It makes no sense to keep marijuana illegal."
"There is a silent majority in this state who would rather see the canabis market run by tax paying citizens rather than criminal cartels, and we will vote across party lines to see that it happens."
"Take a visit to Denver & then decide.Young lazy panhandler bums everywhere.61% increase in single car accidents & many more rear end accidents.Dopes are stopping at green lights.Not something we need in this populated area.
"The saddest part is if it legalized will be all the tax money squandered or skimmed off the top for political cronyism and political rewards. The NJ government ( regardless of party) seems to thrive on corruption, nepotism, and waste. Elected officials that put the best interests of the people over self interests are pretty rare." nj