In yesterday’s elections, two pro marijuana candidates were voted into their respective states’ gubernatorial roles. Ralph Northam of Virginia and Philip Murphy of New Jersey were elected governors in their races, bringing the next ray of hope to the prospect of full legalization across the board. While the national focus is on these wins being a rebuke to Trump policies and campaign tactics, for our purposes, these men represent an overwhelming desire among constituents to decriminalize access to cannabis. The two Democrats replace Republican governors in states that are now majority-blue.
Murphy has said he plans to legalize cannabis within his first 100 days of office. His goal is to fund extensive education reform in New Jersey, and the high revenue from cannabis sales have proven more than enough in states like Colorado for similar plans. Expect to see Murphy raise this specific issue going into his inauguration in January 2018.
New Jersey state legislator Nick Scutari sponsored a bill to legalize and tax marijuana, and it has the support of Senate President Steve Sweeney, but they have waited for the right time to send the bill to the Governor’s desk, as the outgoing governor has been Chris Christie, who would almost certainly veto the bill. Christie is a notorious fear monger and propagandist of marijuana, linking its use to the opioid epidemic, rather than promote the science which shows the use of opioids have decreased in states with legal cannabis.
“We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates… But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK,” said Christie in a speech earlier this year. “People like Nick Scutari and Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway. Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis. Let’s legalize cocaine. Let’s legalize angel dust. Let’s legalize all of it. What’s the difference? Let everybody choose.”
“It is no surprise that we fundamentally disagree with Gov. Christie on this, as we do on so much else,” Murphy’s campaign responded to the ridiculous statement by Christie.
Virginia will also push forward, with Northam pledging to decriminalize marijuana use. As lieutenant governor, he made the issue a priority, telling the current state legislature that marijuana laws disproportionately affects African-Americans. He has also used his credentials as a physician to view cannabis from an informed medical standpoint, saying that he is “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD.”
He pushed the issue as a big part of his tenure as lieutenant governor, writing to the state legislature that current marijuana laws disproportionately affect African-Americans. He’s also said that, as a physician, he is “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD.”
Neither candidate’s opponent supported marijuana legalization or changing current marijuana policies.