Sun Editorial: Despite a delay, don’t bet against legalized recreational marijuana

Our guess is that, in the end, the dollars will win out

By Alan Bauer

During last year’s gubernatorial campaign, it seemed as though, if elected, Phil Murphy would make legalization of recreational marijuana use his top priority. He won, but nothing immediately happened on the weed front.

Then, earlier this month, Murphy signed a $37 billion state budget that had included an anticipated $60 million or so in legal marijuana money. That money was taken out of the budget before he signed it as no legislation has passed governing the legalization of marijuana.

So what gives? Have the state’s dreams of hundreds of millions of dollars in weed-generated revenue gone up in smoke? Opponents say the delay in passing legislation shows lawmakers’ support is dwindling.

However, lawmakers who support the move say “no,” or, at least, “not yet.” They are optimistic something will get done in the coming months. According to those officials, among the hold-ups are debate over the number of dispensaries, oversight and licensing. There’s also the concern many municipalities will bar sales in their communities. In other words, fairly simple issues to resolve.

They also say, and this makes sense, they want to get it right. They want, as the saying goes, to have all of the ducks in a straight row before passing anything.

Whether you support legalized recreational use of marijuana — and there are plenty of good reasons to oppose it — our guess is that, in the end, the dollars will win out. Lawmakers will look at, first, the state budget, pension fund, etc., and, second, at the revenues being generated in other states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana and the chance to be the first state to tap into some very densely populated areas. Then they will legalize recreational marijuana use.

Let’s just hope, for everyone’s sake, they indeed get it right.