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Four More States to Vote on Pot Legalization Next Month

For two years, New Jersey lawmakers failed to mobilize enough support to pass a bill to fully legalize marijuana. They agreed to put the question directly to voters.  Then coronavirus took a firm hold and Black Lives Matter protesters filled streets from coast to coast. Ballots for November’s election, which is being conducted almost entirely by mail, have begun to arrive at voters’ homes. A dominant conversation centers on race and policing, giving a prime argument among supporters of legalization new potency in a state where Blacks are more than three times as likely as whites to be charged with marijuana possession, the New York Times reports.

“The big thing that’s changed,” said Axel Owen of NJ Can 2020, a coalition that supports legalization, “is people are having a discussion about the role of policing.” A Monmouth University poll in April found that 64 percent of New Jersey voters supported legalizing marijuana for personal use. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to make smoking marijuana recreationally legal, without a medical justification. Nine additional states and Washington, D.C., have since legalized adult use of marijuana. New Jersey is one of four states where voters will be asked in November if they support legalizing recreational use of the drug. Arizona, Montana and South Dakota have similar ballot initiatives. If voters approve all four, one in three Americans will live in place where recreational use of marijuana is legal. “We’ve seen this complete evolution in thinking,” said Steven Hawkins of the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalization. “New Jersey is one of the bluest states in the nation and South Dakota is one of the reddest — and they both have ballot initiatives in November.” Opponents fear the long-term effects of the drug and the potential glut of licensed distributors in struggling cities.