The potential for a ballot question next year asking the public to decide whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana foreshadows huge spending by independent, outside groups.
Keep in mind that it was just three years ago that New Jersey had its most expensive ballot contest ever- a $25 million election in which voters balked at allowing casinos outside of Atlantic City.
A ballot initiative involving legalized marijuana also would surely invite millions of dollars of spending by special interests attempting to influence the people to support or oppose legalization.
Given this potential, enactment of legislation that would require independent groups to disclose their donors and expenditures is of increasing importance.
The public deserves to know who is behind efforts to influence policies of such significance and enactment of a “dark money” disclosure bill would accomplish that goal.
While the push to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey has temporarily stalled in the Legislature, the issue now appears to be headed to the 2020 ballot.
Meanwhile, the Legislature is moving ahead with plans to expand the use of cannabis for medical purposes. It was first legalized for medical use in January 2010.
A bill transferring administration of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Health to a regulatory commission was passed by the Assembly May 23 and will be making its way for a vote in the Senate.