New Jersey’s top lawmaker said Tuesday he was giving up on the effort to legalize recreational marijuana through the Legislature and would instead put the issue up for voters to decide next year.
Senate President Steve Sweeney also said he would move forward with bills to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and expunge existing marijuana convictions.
In a press conference at the Statehouse in Trenton, Sweeney acknowledged that he and other supporters of legal pot — including Gov. Phil Murphy — had failed to secure enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill. He said it now makes sense to put the issue to voters in 2020, when turnout will be the strongest.
“It's something I believe strongly in, but the votes aren't there. I'm disappointed,” Sweeney said, but added: “The 2020 general election, I think, will be successful, and we will move forward with adult use.”
Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said he’ll work with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) and sponsors to “update” the legislation and get the bills passed by the end of June.