Central Jersey U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican, said he’s open to part of Murphy’s plan.
“I favor medical marijuana, but I do not favor recreational marijuana,” he said. “I think it sends a very poor message to young people.”
Many of Lance’s GOP colleagues also support medical marijuana, but they aren’t ready to follow the lead of Colorado, California, and Vermont where recreational pot is legal.
Other Garden State Republicans are outspoken in their opposition.
“I think it’s nuts,” said U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur of South Jersey. “It’s just nuts.
“We’re in the midst of the worst drug crisis in our history, and this new governor wants to do a social experiment and see – and test out whether marijuana is a gateway drug so he can raise money for the state?” he said. “It’s nuts to me.”
MacArthur said he’s concerned about the health of the next generation.
“Everyone knows that it’s particularly damaging to the developing adolescent brain, and yet he wants to rush off and make New Jersey the California of the East. Let him go be the mayor of San Francisco or the governor of California,” MacArthur continued. “But don’t do this to the state of New Jersey.”
New Jersey’s junior senator, Democrat Cory Booker, dismissed MacArthur’s objections.
“I think he’s wildly out of step with his own state, and he should maybe look at the overwhelming popularity of decriminalizing marijuana, making it legal,” Booker said.
Booker, who is often mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential aspirant in 2020, has been a leading voice on Capitol Hill calling for normalizing pot use.
MacArthur’s position, he said, is off base and could contribute to worsening the opioid epidemic that has plagued New Jersey and the rest of the nation.
“What I’m hearing from doctors in New Jersey and beyond, is that [marijuana’s] an off-ramp drug. That it helps people get off of opioid addiction,” Booker said. A recent poll found that 49 percent of New Jersey residents support legalizing recreational marijuana, while 44 percent are opposed.