As of this week, the governor is off by 1,050 days give or take and still counting while the Senate and Assembly — both controlled by his party — are at a stalemate over legislation to regulate and police the marijuana marketplace.
This past November, some 60 percent of New Jersey voters approved a Constitutional amendment to fulfill candidate Murphy’s campaign promise but left it to the Legislature to work out the details.
It was many of the same details that thwarted legislative approval in the first instance and led to the fallback position — a referendum whose outcome was never in doubt.
The details remain unresolved and the debate is likely to spill into 2021, potentially pushing the first over the counter pot sale into 2022.
The referendum — in truth, a meaningless and expensive public opinion poll — was little more than a relief valve to ease the pressure on the Legislature and provide a rationale for on the fence Senators and Assembly members to eventually support legalization by characterizing their favorable votes as a reflection of the will of the people.
That the referendum would succeed was never in doubt. Polls consistently showed public support north of 60 per cent and never wavered. No significant organized or well-financed opposition to the ballot question ever emerged, an acknowledgement that attempting to persuade a majority to cast a negative vote was pointless.
Given the foreknowledge that the referendum would draw overwhelming support, is it not logical to inquire why the year between legislative approval of the ballot question and the general election was not utilized by legislative supporters to negotiate and agree on implementation details and produce a proposal ready for debate before the voting machines went into warehouse storage?
Why not anticipate the certain outcome, get ahead of the issue and remove all the obstacles that stood in the way of legislative approval?
The points of conflict — primarily tax levels and allocation of the revenue, licensing, number and location of dispensaries — were certainly well known; they’d been debated during the futile efforts to secure legislative passage last year.