New Jersey’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee used his Election Night victory speech to promise to legalize cannabis if elected governor in November.
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” said Phil Murphy, who strongly outperformed five primary competitors on Tuesday. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
In the speech, Murphy also pledged to end mass incarceration and “eliminate prisons for profit.”
Murphy, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, consistently called for cannabis legalization during the course of the primary race. Every other major Democratic candidate also endorsed ending prohibition.
Now, in the general election, Murphy faces Lt. Gov. Kim Guadago, who won the Republican primary on Tuesday.
Guadagno doesn’t support legalization, but she has called for decriminalization and expansion of the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
“I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” she said during a primary debate last month.
“Having said that, however, I completely agree that we should decriminalize it,” she continued. “Because no one should suffer because of the color of their skin or because of their social background or because they were picked up with a small quantity.”
The lieutenant governor also suggested she supports adding new qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. Saying she wants to “streamline” the program, Guadago argued the state should “make it easier for people that have doctors’ notes to get it.”
As to full legalization, she voiced concerns that New Jersey could run into problems with Jeff Sessions, a strong opponent, as U.S. attorney general.
Current Gov. Chris Christie (R) is one of the nation’s most ardent marijuana law reform opponents in elected office. During the course of his 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign he repeatedly pledged that if elected he would vigorously enforce federal prohibition in legalization states, and has been seen as perhaps the sole roadblock to further reform in the Garden State.
Last month, legalization proposals were filed in the state Senate and Assembly, and legislative leaders have predicted that they would be able to advance a bill rather quickly once a supportive governor is inaugurated early in 2018.
New Jersey is one of two states with gubernatorial elections this year. In the other, Virginia, both Democratic candidates have pledged to decriminalize marijuana and enact medical cannabis.