Garden State: New Jersey Looks To Lead Northeast On Recreational Use

This article was originally published on WeedWeek, and appears here with permission.

On Nov. 3, New Jersey voters appear likely to approve a state-legal REC market. A choice to do so, according to supporters, could significantly bolster the state’s lagging economy and position it to play a major role in how the rest of the region proceeds with legalization.

Those are just some of the potential impacts identified by analysts, if New Jersey becomes the most populous northeastern state to establish a REC market. If the legalization ballot measure – New Jersey Public Question 1 – passes, the state of 8.9M residents will jump ahead of larger bordering states like New York (19.5M) and Pennsylvania (12.8M) for what could become one of the largest, and potentially most lucrative, REC markets in the country.

That could provide major fiscal relief for a state currently facing a $6B deficit, brought on largely by the COVID-19 pandemic, and also allow New Jersey to set the regulatory tone for its region, said Bill Caruso, an attorney with Archer Law who also advocates and lobbies on behalf of the cannabis industry.

“I get the feeling that all eyes around the country are on New Jersey right now,” Caruso told WeedWeek on Friday. “I think New Jersey will help to shape where the federal government goes, to some extent, but this is really more about this region.”

He’s not the only legalization proponent excited about the state’s prospects. 

Several advocates, including Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), participated in a virtual panel discussion Thursday where they discussed the potential benefits of legalization. Those include everything from an estimated tax boost of up to $300M and criminal justice reform to job creation and increased tourism.

“We’ve got to make sure this passes,” Murphy said of the ballot measure, “and it will transform our state.”

Regional powerhouse

To date, Massachusetts and Maine are the only northeast states with a REC market.

New Jersey has the opportunity to overshadow both due both to its larger population – Massachusetts and Maine have a combined 8.2M residents – and its geographic location. New York City and …

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