OP-ED: LEGAL CANNABIS LEGISLATION IN NEW JERSEY ISN’T DEAD YET

Contrary to what’s being said, lawmakers can still pass a bill legalizing adult-use of marijuana; it’s the wise thing to do

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” read a cable sent by Mark Twain from London to the press in the United States after his obituary had been mistakenly published.

The same could be said about the prospects for an adult-use cannabis law being passed by the New Jersey legislature. Media reports indicate that the bill is all but dead in Trenton and that the only alternative is a 2020 ballot referendum in the form of a constitutional amendment.

This conclusion is inaccurate. Lawmakers still have time to vote on the bill, and more importantly, they should. A constitutional amendment is not the answer to legalize adult-use cannabis in New Jersey.

There are of course advantages to taking this issue directly to voters. A ballot initiative is likely to pass — almost 60 percent of the state’s population is in favor of adult-use cannabis. A ballot initiative would also save lawmakers from the arduous process of crafting the language and building consensus to implement the will of the people.

That said, a ballot measure which initiates a constitutional amendment presents risks that are too great to overlook — both for medical-cannabis patients who would benefit from the adult-use market, and small-business owners and workers trying to get a foothold in this nascent industry.