Trenton is punting legal pot to the 2020 ballot. Democrat infighting is only one of the reasons.

Trenton is punting legal pot to the 2020 ballot. Democrat infighting is only one of the reasons.

By Matt Rooney

It’s been expected for weeks now, Save Jerseyans, but NJ Advance Media reportedly confirmed today that Trenton Democrats — who are currently warring with one another — will officially give up on passing a recreational marijuana bill. Instead? They’ll move to put it on the ballot in 2020.

Democrats control both houses of the legislature by solid margins; infighting and some genuine disagreement over the concept caused leaders to jettison moving forward with floor votes earlier this spring.

That’s the primary reason why legal weed is off the table (for now).

Another new development which factors into the decision: the Trump tax cuts are helping the state’s coffers. Oh irony of ironies! So for spend happy N.J. Dems, there is temporarily less pressure to bring in new revenues (by way of new taxes, like the proposed pot tax) than there was a few months ago. They have Donald Trump to thank.

And then there’s another reason, or better stated a collection of related reasons why Democrats prefer a 2020 ballot question versus a 2019 legislative vote. This is the biggie:

Electoral political calculations. Of course! 

Democrats are looking at a handful of close races in this year’s upcoming 2019 Assembly contests, and these districts (like reddish LD1 in deep South Jersey) probably skew a little less pro-pot than the state as a whole.

They’d rather not needlessly risk a potential isolated blow back when they’re yet again poised to expand their legislative majority.

A better option for Democrats than a tough 2019 vote: using legal weed as a rallying cry to get “progressive” voters to the polls next November (as if Donald Trump wasn’t enough of a magnet).  CD-2, CD-3, CD-5 and CD-7 could be close fought battles in the presidential cycle; anything to gin up base enthusiasm is a net plus for Team Blue.

New Jersey Republican congressional hopefuls better have an answer for legal weed. It’ll be the elephant in the room next November. 


MATT ROONEY is a practicing New Jersey attorney, regular panelist on ‘Chasing News’ with Bill Spadea, and the founder and blogger-in-chief of Save Jersey.