Cannabis legalization in Northeastern states hangs on New Jersey vote

Sep 28, 2020

The vote to legalize recreational cannabis in New Jersey this November is one of the most important in the nation according to a report out in Marijuana Business Daily. Not only are billions of dollars rising on a yes vote, including an industry potentially worth $950 million by 2024, but the legalization of cannabis across the Eastern Seaboard as well.

According to Marijuana Business Daily, should the recreational cannabis ballot provision in New Jersey pass this November, it might cause a domino effect across the Northeast, causing state after state to legalize the drug.

The big states that are being watched in relation to New Jersey are New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which combined have a population of 37 million people. Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, calls New Jersey “the final hurdle for New York, Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” according to Marijuana Business Daily.

Bridget Hill-Zayat, a cannabis attorney with Hoban Law Group, agreed. “It’s going to motivate the surrounding states for sure,” she told the site.

For example, Marijuana Business Daily noted that Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Wolf has been pushing for legalization in recent weeks. He wants to use it as a way to shore up budget holes due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Republican legislature in the state has given him pushback.

But, if New Jersey legalizes cannabis, the state is only a quick trip over the bridge for many Philadelphians, which is the largest city in Pennsylvania. That’s a lot of lost tax revenue going to another state. Furthermore, it could cost the state revenue from its growing medical cannabis program. The belief is Republicans will have to pay attention.

“A lot of medical marijuana customers will go over to New Jersey, and that’s a significant amount of revenue Pennsylvania is going to lose,” Hill-Zayat said to Marijuana Business Daily.

According to the site, these Northeast states have attempted to legalize cannabis in a bloc, to avoid cross-state purchasing, which would mean lost tax revenue for any state without a legal cannabis program. Last year New York governor Andrew Cuomo hosted a summit with the governors of the other respective states.

For a while, New York and New Jersey were in a race to see which one could legalize the plant first. However, neither state could make it happen.

The ballot measure in New Jersey looks to be popular. According to Marijuana Business Daily, residents favor legalization 68 percent to 26 percent as per a poll commissioned by the cannabis law practice of New Jersey-based Brach Eichler and conducted by New York-headquartered DKC Analytics in July.

Both Rudder and Hill-Zayat told the site that New Jersey would want to move as quickly as possible to be up and running. Although the details of licensure and other operating procedures haven’t been worked out yet, the legislature is expected to take them up after the vote.

Like Rudder, Hill-Zayat said that current medical cannabis operators would probably be the first ones offered recreational cannabis licenses.

“If the motivation is a drive for tax revenues, they are going to want to move as quickly as possible,” she told Marijuana Business Daily.

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