VoteSpotter | VoteSpotters Community

Commentary & Community

Recreational Marijuana May Be Legalized in New Jersey

Legislators in New Jersey today considered a package of bills that, if passed, could make the state the eleventh to legalize marijuana for recreational use.


Committees in both the Assembly and the Senate held hearings on legislation to expand the state’s medicinal marijuana program, permit marijuana to be used for recreational purposes, and allow more crimes to be eligible for expungement.


One of the bills under consideration would allow state residents who are 21 or older to possess an ounce of cannabis for personal uses. Smoking marijuana in public would be treated similar to smoking tobacco. Home cultivation would not be allowed under this legislation. The state would tax the sale of legal marijuana at 12%, with local governments able to impose another 2% tax rate.


Another bill would allow medical marijuana patients to possess 3 ounces of cannabis. Currently they can only possess 2 ounces. These patients could also buy edible marijuana products under this legislation and could buy from any dispensary, instead of being limited to one dispensary as they currently are today.


Governor Phil Murphy is supportive of legalization, but has differed with legislators on the details. For instance, he pushed for a 25% tax rate on legal marijuana sales. Legislators ultimately put a lower rate in legislation in order to deter black market sales.


Both legislative bodies are controlled by Democrats, and there are indications that a majority of legislators support some form of legalization.


Of the 11 states that allow legal use of recreational marijuana, only Vermont has legalized the use through the legislative process. The other 10 states passed legalization through ballot measures.


Do you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes?

Gun Rights to be an Issue in Iowa Next Year

Should the Iowa constitution protect the right to bear arms?

That is the question facing legislators as they gear up for the 2019 legislative session. There is a move to enshrine the right to bear arms in the state’s constitution, but some legislators are wary.


To amend the state constitution, Iowa legislators must approve amendments in two separate sessions and then the voters must vote in favor. Last year, both houses of the legislature approved a resolution that would add this language to the constitution:


The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.


The vote was 34-15 in the house and 54-42 in the senate.


With new legislators being elected in November, these vote totals will certainly change. However, Republicans retained control of both chambers, so efforts to pass the amendment a second time will likely succeed. If that happens, the proposed amendment will be on the Iowa ballot in 2020.


Supporters of amending the constitution argue that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right that should be protected from infringement by lawmakers. They say that putting this language in the state constitution will ensure that state residents will be protected from future efforts to strip them of their gun rights. Opponents counter that this amendment would prevent common sense gun safety legislation. They say that this is the wrong direction for Iowa to be taking given recent mass shootings.


The legislature convenes on January 14.


Do you think that Iowa and other states should add constitutional protections for the right to bear arms?