The political fate of marijuana’s future in Virginia and New Jersey solidified after the polls closed Tuesday. While there were no statewide initiatives to legalize marijuana on the 2017 ballot, the synergistic momentum to reform existing marijuana laws made significant progress on Election Night 2017.
New Jersey: Murphy Wants Legalization Bill in First Hundred Days
The pro-legalization candidate from New Jersey, Phil Murphy (D), defeated Kim Guadagno (R) by 12.9 percent. Murphy will have the distinct pleasure of succeeding Gov. Chris Christie (R), the two-term Republican who has repeatedly embraced the ideals of prohibition and will go down in infamy as the most unpopular governor in the United States with a disapproval rating of 71 percent.
Murphy, New Jersey’s newest governor-elect, has repeatedly spoken out in support of ending marijuana prohibition, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and establishing greater equity for women and the LGBTQ community. A discarded political relic, Christie has notoriously called the notion of legalizing recreational marijuana “beyond stupidity.” Now, with Christie out, the governor-elect wants a bill legalizing adult-use marijuana on his desk in the first 100 days of his administration.
New Jersey would be the ninth state to embrace marijuana reform, with a legal market estimated to generate approximately $300 million annually in new tax revenue.
— Phil Murphy (@PhilMurphyNJ) April 27, 2017
Virginia: Dr. Northam Wins on Decriminalization Platform
Elevated from his current position as the lieutenant governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam (D) will replace Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) as the next governor of Old Dominion. Blunt in his support of decriminalization, Governor-elect Northam views marijuana reform as a means of providing greater parity for Virginia’s minorities.
In February, Virginia’s next governor penned a letter identifying an expanded medical marijuana program and decriminalization as a means of addressing the “systemic inequalities” within Virginia’s “judicial system.” A physician by trade, Northam eventually embraced the scientific data indicating the medicinal efficacy of cannabis.
“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. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”
Decriminalizing marijuana is a crucial step in addressing the inequities in criminal justice reform. The VA Crime Commission should act. https://t.co/Ef6MOmHpIF
— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) April 5, 2017
Palm Springs Supports New Recreational Marijuana Tax
With approximately 80 percent of the ballots counted, voters in Palm Springs, California rolled out strong support for Measure E. Palm Springs marijuana taxes under Measure E will now be paid monthly. Measure E increases the maximum tax rate to 15 percent on collectives’ gross receipts.
According to Ballotpedia, “Like the tax on collectives, under this measure the Council would set and adjust the gross receipts tax rate by resolution. This measure would tax cultivation at a rate up to $10.00 per square foot of grow area, adjustable yearly.”
Politics and marijuana are an intoxicating mix in the 21st century. As the United States now prepares for the midterm elections in 2018 and the presidential campaign in 2020, the topic of marijuana legalization has lurched from the political fringes to stand directly under the spotlight of American politics.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett