New Jersey's Newly Elected Governor Wants to Legalize Pot

Virginia's incoming governor supports decriminalization.


campaign photo

Yesterday New Jersey voters elected a governor who wants to legalize marijuana, while Virginia voters elected a governor who wants to eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession.

Incoming New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who defeated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, will succeed Republican Chris Christie, who as a candidate for his party's 2016 presidential nomination threatened to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it. Murphy, by contrast, thinks New Jersey should join that list. "The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people's futures, so we will legalize marijuana," he said after winning the Democratic primary in June. "And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just." His campaign website promised to "legalize marijuana so police can focus resources on violent crimes."

Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell notes that New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, has said he is "committed" to considering a legalization bill in early 2018. "New Jersey is poised to potentially become the first state to allow legal recreational marijuana sales with an act of its legislature, as opposed to by voters through a ballot measure," Angell writes. Last summer, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden), who introduced a legalization bill in May, told The New York Times, "Given [Murphy's] support and the leadership of the house, I think we have obviously a legitimate opportunity to do this in the first 100 days of the Murphy administration for an outright cannabis law done legislatively."

New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010, although Christie initially resisted implementation of the bill and the state's program remains one of the country's most restrictive. If you are not a registered patient and are caught with 50 grams or less of marijuana, you face a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Above that threshold, the maximum penalty for possession is a $25,000 fine and 18 months in jail. During his campign, Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who has never held elective office, noted that New Jersey police make some 24,000 low-level marijuana arrests each year, that blacks are three times as likely as whites to be arrested, and that enforcing pot prohibition costs the state $143 million a year.


Incoming Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is currently the state's lieutenant governor, defeated former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. Like Murphy, he cited the racially disproportionate impact of marijuana arrests, arguing that decriminalization would address that problem.

"We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color," Northam wrote on Medium in February. "One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation."

Northam added that "as a doctor, I'm becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD." If marijuana is decriminalized, he argued, "our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it."

Virginia has no medical marijuana program and treats possession of less than half an ounce as a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail for a first offense. Those penalties rise to $2,500 and a year for subsequent offenses. Tommy Norment, the Republican majority leader of the Virginia Senate, recently said he plans to introduce a bill that would make a first-time possession of marijuana, which leads to more than 12,000 arrests in Virginia each year, a civil offense punishable by a fine, mandatory education, and suspension of driving privileges.

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  1. Tommy Norment, the Republican majority leader of the Virginia Senate, recently said he plans to introduce a bill that would make a first-time possession of marijuana, which leads to more than 12,000 arrests in Virginia each year, a civil offense punishable by a fine, mandatory education, and suspension of driving privileges.

    What does possession have to do with driving privileges?

    1. About as much as mandatory education.

      1. That’s the “rehabilitation” the new governor is talking about

  2. New Jersey’s new Governor? OK


    The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement???money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

    This is NOT your “libertarian moment”.

  3. Of course he does. Just like Obama wanted to legalize it.

    Legalized marijuana is a tax boom for these lefty states who are having huge budget shortfalls.

    I don’t really care at this point unless he is advocating full decriminalization of weed and if you tax it, tax it at the same rates as other commodities.

  4. Hey that’s great. I’ll be able to toke up while Murphy tanks the economy, raises taxes, and takes away my guns.

    1. We won’t even notice until a targeted revenue enhancement is levied upon bags of Doritos.

    2. Didn’t the previous Governors already do that?

      1. It’s a work in progress. Christie was actually the least bad Governor we’ve had in a very long time.

    3. But will Jersey get its own cocktail parties?

    4. It’s amazing how short term political memory is. The Democrats fucked up New Jersey so badly with one party rule that we elected a goddamn Republican twice. Christie was a giant asshole, but he was the least terrible governor we’ve had in a long time. At least he tried to go after the unions and the pension problem.

  5. Aborto-Freak wingnuts boycott Jim Beam because Mila Kunis donates to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name.

    Butthurt little snowflake conservatives.

    1. I boycott Jim Beam because it made me drunk.

      1. Someone slipped you some Jim Beam and said it was Pepsi, and the next thing you knew you were waking up in bed with Melissa McCarthy?

      2. By “boycott” you mean drink?

    2. So people who believe that unborn human beings have the right to life are boycotting a company whose spokesperson denies the right to life? How shocking.

      Living among leftists, they keep mentioning boycott campaigns which they read about on their twitface feeds – not that I blame them for refusing to enrich people who are undermining their values.

      I would, however, question whether you apply your purported anti-boycott principles consistently.

      1. I think my views on abortion are different from yours. That being said, I don’t understand what’s weird about the article PB linked to. I’m with you, that’s just people who believe something strongly boycotting a company that believes the opposite.

    3. The lefty-freak wingnuts would get all butthurt and start a riot or bum-rush a senator from behind.

    4. Said the already born idiot.

      1. LOL. So what? I got mine. What the fuck do I care? Sure, I could’ve been aborted, but I wasn’t, so that’s that. Tough shit, zygotes! Sucks to be them, haha!

        Oh, and fuck off, btw… 😉

  6. Sure. The state that makes it illegal to pump your own gasoline (although, interestingly, it is not illegal to pump your own diesel fuel) is going to “legalize” pot. New Jersey is far too much of a Nanny State to allow access to an intoxicant without all manner of restrictions, provisos, and mandatory nagging about “responsible” toking.

    Further, knowing my home state as I do, especially under Democrat control, I am confident that “legalized” marijuana in New Jersey will closely resemble “legalized” gambling, in that it will bear absolutely no relation to a free market. Rather, it will be a heavily regulated, limited-access oligopoly from which the state will take a whopping cut, and from which politically connected firms will benefit greatly.

    1. We’ll end up with one random Marijuana Town like AC, bringing in all sorts of incapable businessmen to try and build up an industry.

  7. That is a great photo of Phil Murphy.

  8. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. “

    Not so bad when you compare it to the 7x murder rate. But maybe that’s overzealous cops’ fault too for not enforcing murder in white neighborhoods. And I can tell you exactly why certain groups get arrested more, since it still happens even in the hyper-liberal cities in liberal states. Go downtown and you’ll see young men smelling up the streets overtly smoking weed out in the open. If it’s late they try and sell to you too. That will never be allowed by places that hope to keep the gentrification and tourism going, and hence the disproportionate citations arrests will never stop, even if the sentences get far more lenient.

    And I see that the guy is for gun-control. Does he want to ban anything else while we shower him with love in hopes he really will un-ban weed?

    1. The Second Amendment is not in Reason’s Holy Trinity of pot, assex and Mexicans.

    2. The un-LIbertarians believe you can negotiate with lefty terrorists.

      Demand zero infringement on weapons and zero prohibition on weed. Give the lefties nothing in return.

    3. The reason why blacks are more likely to be arrested for weed is because they are more likely to live in high crime areas with more cops. Racism does play a role, but it is a very small one. The other explanations are just obvious, though. We need to fix a ton of things about our justice system that leads to a disproportionate number of black men in jail, but none of the solutions have anything to do with race. Focusing on race distracts from the real solutions that ignore race but will have a disproportionately positive effect on black men..

      1. Growing up without fathers explains it.

      2. Blacks get arrested for pot because those depressed areas lack economic opportunity. The drug trade is one of the best black market economies to provide people in depressed neighborhoods an income.

        With that said, would legalizing drugs be considered racist for taking that economic opportunity away?

        1. They can switch to selling newly-outlawed cigarettes.

        2. I have actually read articles about why legal weed is having racist effects! In Cali people with criminal records are barred from going into the MJ business, which of course effects blacks/Mexicans or whatever disproportionately. So all these poor drug dealers with decades of experience slingin’ dope can’t go into the legal business 🙁

          In all truth, it is stupid, but the way the lefty article I read was talking about it was pretty ridiculous. Also one of their example people had been caught selling CRACK, not just weed, so he did a long stint in the slammer and decided to ONLY slang weed after that. So lost a few sympathy points there. LOL

  9. Campaign promises as reality? How droll.

  10. I’ll believe it when I see it. Also, weed legalization is like #300 on the things needed to be fixed here. All of my friends voted for him because of solely because of weed, though.

  11. The mouth-breather wants to legalize weed and then greatly broaden the already draconian infringement of our 2A rights. The guy is a fucking scumbag.

  12. Has any politician suggested legalizing weed completely?

    No taxes, no restrictions on possession or sales, no age limits, no limits on growing, and no state interest of any kind?

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