Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly voted to amend the state’s constitution on Tuesday night to legalize the possession of marijuana for all people 21-years-old and over and pave the way for the recreational cultivation, processing and retail sale of the drug.
The referendum was officially called by the Associated Press just before 10 p.m., with 67% of voters casting their ballots in favor of the measure.
The vote is a victory for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who promised to legalize the drug during his first 100 days in office while campaigning in 2017 for the governorship. Though he fell short of the promise in past years, Murphy has lobbied heavily in favor of the ballot question during the last few weeks.
“Let me be BLUNT,” Murphy said in a tweet on Monday, “Legalizing marijuana is a matter of social justice, racial justice, and economic justice.”
Just last year, State Senate President Steven Sweeney (D-Gloucester) announced that he would drop his effort to push through legislation that would legalize the drug after lawmakers became deadlocked over the measure and opted to kick the question to New Jersey voters in November 2020.
“There’s no sense dragging this out, I’m disappointed,” Sweeney said of the measure last May, adding that he was confident voters would approve the measure come Nov. 3.
Though voters have now approved the legalization of marijuana statewide, it will not become completely legal overnight as state lawmakers will still need to pass a bill governing the regulations of the recreational marijuana industry.
For Seton Hall students, using the drug may still violate the University’s code of conduct according to Dean of Students Winston Roberts.
“In the event of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by the state of New Jersey, the current student conduct drug policy itself may not change as marijuana would still remain illegal under federal law,” Roberts said.
Colleges in states where recreational marijuana is legal have been reluctant to allow its use on campus in part due to a 1996 law that allows the federal government to withhold funding from colleges and public schools that do not ban drugs on their campuses.
According to Seton Hall’s student code of conduct, The University prohibits the “use, possession, manufacturing, or distribution of marijuana…except as expressly permitted by law,” though it is unclear if a state law would be enough to transcend the code.
New Jersey will join a group of 11 other states and Washington D.C. that now have legalized the drug for recreational use.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr.