The Garden State could turn green on Election Day.
New Jersey residents are voting Tuesday on a constitutional amendment to allow legal recreational pot sales.
The measure would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for people age 21 and older, as well as legalize the cultivation, processing and sale of retail marijuana.
If approved, New Jersey would become the 12th state to legalize pot.
The issue seems poised to pass — voters supported the move two-to-one in a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll last month. It found that 61 percent of likely voters intended to vote, or have already voted, yes, compared to 29 percent who will vote or have voted no.
Marijuana legalization enjoyed the most support from Democrats (71 percent), men (66 percent) and 18- to 34-year-olds (77 percent).
Cannabis purchases would be subject to 6.625 percent sales tax and likely an extra 2 percent tax levied by municipalities where it’s sold, NorthJersey.com reported.
The state previously estimated that legalization would spur nearly $1.8 billion in annual sales — and just over $210 million in state taxes.
People outside of New Jersey could also buy weed in the state — though federal laws technically prevent them from crossing state lines with a legally obtained stash.
If the referendum does pass, there are still finer details New Jersey would have to hammer out, including how much weed a person could buy and who would be allowed to sell it.
In Colorado, for example, people 21 years or older can legally possess 1 ounce of marijuana, while medical patients can have up to 2 ounces. The rule is the same in Illinois, the most recent state to legalize pot, where those 21 and older can legally possess 30 grams.
It’s also unclear where people would be permitted to smoke marijuana, though other states where it’s legal limit consumption to private property. Some states have also opened cannabis lounges for on-site consumption.
That means it could be months or even years before legal sales begin taking shape.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission would likely license new operators, according to NJ.com, which noted that the commission is slated to take over the state’s booming medical marijuana program from the Health Department.
Currently, there are 12 companies licensed to grow, process and dispense medical cannabis in the Garden State. Patients with a medical marijuana license can buy up to 3 ounces a month from one of the state’s dispensaries, which sell pot for between $400 and $500 an ounce, the New York Times reported.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has long supported legalizing marijuana though he failed to garner enough votes in the state Legislature to pass a bill in the Senate.
“On Nov. 3, we are committed to making history in New Jersey to pass the legal adult use of marijuana,” Murphy said during an online panel about the issue last month, according to NorthJersey.com. “We can’t fail, folks. We have to make sure this happens, and it will transform our state.”
Krista Jenkins, FDU poll director and professor of politics and government at FDU, said support for the issue in the state has “evolved considerably.”
“Just a few years ago, in 2018, we asked about recreational marijuana legalization and found support that was well beneath a majority, let alone anything that approached the support we’re seeing today,” she said. “Back then, 42 percent support what is being proposed today. The legislative maneuver to give voters the say looks like it will wind up with a decisive pro-pot outcome.”
If weed becomes legal in New Jersey, neighboring New York could finally be kicked into overdrive to pass a similar measure.
Talks between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democratic state lawmakers have stalled over the past two years — though the Empire State is facing a $63 billion revenue shortfall over the next four years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I tried to get it done for the past couple of years, there’s good reason to do it but one of the things, one of the benefits is it also brings in revenue but all states but especially this state,” Cuomo said last month.
Cuomo’s proposal would only permit people to have one ounce of marijuana, while a competing proposal would allow people over 21 to have three ounces — which would be the most lenient threshold in the nation.
New Jersey’s green light might also send New Yorkers scrambling across the Hudson River to snap up some contraband.
After Massachusetts legalized in 2017, dispensaries reported a number of New Yorkers making the trip up north to get their stash each day.
About 15,000 New Yorkers flocked to the Theory Wellness store in Great Barrington, the closest dispensary to New York City, for their pot purchases in the beginning of 2019, records showed.
Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan