- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New Jersey’s incoming governor reiterated a campaign pledge to legalize marijuana during his inaugural address Tuesday, despite the federal government’s recent rescinding of Obama-era pot protections.

“A stronger and fairer New Jersey embraces criminal justice reform comprehensively, and that includes a process to legalize marijuana,” Gov. Phil Murphy said shortly after taking the oath of office.

Mr. Murphy “will end mass incarceration by pursuing the legalization of marijuana and comprehensively reviewing all criminal sentencing laws,” according to a revamped version of the New Jersey governor’s official website launched this week.

Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, campaigned on legalizing marijuana within the Garden State, and the president of the state Senate previously promised to put a weed bill on the governor’s desk within 100 days of him taking office.

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Mr. Murphy said while campaigning. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, though most states have passed legislation permitting the plant for either medicinal or recreational purposes. The future of those laws has been in doubt since earlier this month, however, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions abruptly rescinded Obama-era policies that had advised federal prosecutors against pursuing cannabis-related convictions in states where voters legalized the plant.

Eight states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, including six states where adults can purchase retail weed from state-licensed dispensaries: Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state. The governor of Vermont also pledged to sign a recreational marijuana bill passed by lawmakers earlier this month.

Mr. Murphy’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, adamantly opposed legalizing marijuana while in office.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a recent Gallup poll. About 70 percent of voters oppose the federal government interfering in states that have passed recreational or medical weed laws, a Quinnipiac University poll recently concluded.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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