For many, the legalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey became a foregone conclusion once Phil Murphy was elected governor. He has certainly put forth a real effort to make cannabis legalization a top priority for the state. The New Jersey house of representatives have already agreed on a bill to legalize marijuana, however there is strong senate opposition to the bill.

The senate may have enough support to pass the bill and get it on Phil Murphy’s desk, but there is opposition coming from both the democrats and republicans. There is enough opposition that the bill is now up in the air and will leave advocates on the edge of their seats.

While Democrats now hold the governor’s office and a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature, half a dozen Democratic state senators tell NJ Advance Media they plan to vote “no” on any bill legalizing pot for recreational use by adults, leaving its future cloudy.

They include Sens. Joseph Vitale of Middlesex, Ronald Rice and Richard Codey of Essex, Jeff Van Drew of Cape May, Shirley Turner of Mercer and Brian Stack of Hudson County.

Another pair of Senate Democrats — Nicholas Sacco of Hudson County and James Beach of Camden — said they are willing to consider decriminalization but are not yet ready to vote “yes” on a recreational marijuana bill. Both senators cited concerns ranging from unintended social justice ramifications to public safety on roadways.

Democrats hold a 25-15 majority over Republicans in the Senate, 21 votes are still needed in order to pass the bill and get it to his desk to sign. That means Dems can afford to lose the support of four of their own before they secure GOP support.

However, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, said he expected his bill to pass, saying it would get at least some Republican support.

“I think your math is wrong,” said Scutari, “This is a process and people will want to — and should — read and review the entire bill before making a decision. … Keeping marijuana illegal just makes drug dealers richer.”

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, is a major opponent to marijuana and stifled the limited medical marijuana program the state had implemented while he was in office. Do you think the New Jersey senate will pass the bill to legalize marijuana?

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