New Jersey lawmakers may still be working out details on just how to legalize marijuana. But one thing is for certain: The majority of the state’s residents are for it, according to a new poll.
Results of a Monmouth University poll, released Monday morning, show 62 percent of adults in the Garden State support a law that would permit small amounts of cannabis for adult recreational use.
“The overwhelming sentiment in New Jersey is that overall this is a good idea,” said the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s Patrick Murray.
The Monmouth poll also found that the majority of New Jersey residents — 74 percent — support giving people who were previously convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis a way to expunge those charges from their record.
Support for legalization also is strong in Pennsylvania, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College. “There were 59 percent of Pennsylvania voters who supported legalization in September 2017, up from 22 percent in 2006,” Madonna said. A new batch of polling results is expected next Month.
States near New Jersey that are considering legalizing recreational use include Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and Maryland. On the East Coast, adult use already has been made legal in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
“There are people who are sitting on the fence" about New Jersey sponsoring sales,” Murray continued. "But if you flipped a coin, they would say, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it, because other states near us are already doing it. If we’re going to get the economic benefits, we better move fast, even if the legislature doesn’t have all its ducks in a row.’”
There was “significant progress” this week in working out the sticking points during talks with Gov. Phil Murphy and State Senate President Steven Sweeney (D., Gloucester), said State Sen. Nick Scutari (D., Union), the prime sponsor of the legalization bill.
“We’re coming to a conclusion, and we have some final points to resolve,” Scutari said. “But the major points of contention, such as how it should be taxed, we’ve made an agreement on those. If we can get down to polishing this up, we hope the governor will help get us some votes.”
Scutari said there was a provisional agreement to tax recreational marijuana by weight, “like a gasoline tax,” at $42 per ounce of flower.
“It gives a greater amount of predictability, regardless of the price shifting,” Scutari said. The tax would be reviewed after three years to make sure it is not too high. “If the price of cannabis plummets, like it has in several legal states, $42 could be a big percentage of the sale.”
Other products — high potency oils, tinctures, lotions, and edibles — might be taxed on the percentage of THC, the intoxication compound in marijuana.
Legalization was a key part of Murphy’s campaign platform and a cornerstone of his legislative agenda. The governor’s office and Sweeney did not return calls requesting comment.
Scutari said his fellow lawmakers should take the latest poll results to heart.
“I would hope that legislators fearful of supporting a legalization bill would look to the wishes of their constituents and say, 'This is what people want, let’s do it,” he said.
Public support for state-licensed sales of recreational marijuana “is softer, but still positive,” Murray said.
About 50 percent of the 600 residents who were polled said they think sales at state-regulated dispensaries “is a good idea.” About 34 percent say “it’s a bad idea,” while an additional 17 percent were “unsure.”
The expectation of tax revenues was one major reason for public support. According to the poll, 40 percent cited economic gains as justifying legalization. An additional 28 percent said prosecuting marijuana crimes was a waste of resources.
About a third of legalization’s opponents believed cannabis use is harmful or addictive, while about 20 percent worried about a potential increase in traffic accidents and driving under the influence.