New Jersey Pot Law Has ‘Ways to Go’ Days Before Vote, Governor Says

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey’s recreational-marijuana bill lacks enough support to become law, but Governor Phil Murphy said he and legislative leaders will continue working to persuade holdout lawmakers ahead of an expected vote on March 25.

“We’re close -- we’re not there yet,” Murphy said at a press conference in Trenton. “We’re making progress but we have a ways to go.”

Murphy, who took office in January 2017, promised legalized adult-use pot early in his first year. Some lawmakers, though, including his fellow Democrats, have objected to decriminalizing a drug that’s banned by the U.S. government. Some say marijuana would fuel crime, lead to use of harder drugs and erode anti-drug efforts aimed at schoolchildren; others say the state needs a broader component to erase criminal records.

Boosters have said that March 25 may be the final chance to pass the bill because lawmakers will need to start focusing on negotiations over a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Murphy said he was “working together seamlessly” with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to change "no" votes. The leaders didn’t appear with him, Murphy said, because Sweeney was traveling and Coughlin had a family commitment.

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