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Cuomo called for legalization within the first 100 days of his new term, saying legalization was a social justice issue. If that sounds familiar, it’s because New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made a similar pledge when coming into office this January. It’s been nearly 365 days in office for Murphy and still no legalization in New Jersey.

The two Democratic governors have more in common than ambitious marijuana pledges. They are both leading states with Democratic Legislatures that are attempting to legalize marijuana through those chambers. Only one other state, Vermont, has done it through legislation.

But New York’s impetus to get legal weed magnifies New Jersey’s failure to do so in 2018, and makes this question a little more pressing: Could New York, which is more than a year behind New Jersey in the process, actually legalize marijuana first?

Not likely, say some of the people most closely involved in New Jersey’s push to get legal weed. New York has yet to run into some of the walls that have blocked progress in the Garden State, they say.


“The idea that they’re just going to walk into Albany and put it on legislators’ desks and get it approved — that’s just not going to happen,” said Bill Caruso, a marijuana lobbyist and member of the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association. “I think it’s going to take them some time to work through those issues.”

New Jersey does enjoy a healthy lead over its trans-Hudson neighbor when it comes to marijuana. New York has yet to have any piece of cannabis legislation gain momentum, and it hasn’t had some of the crucial discussions that New Jersey has already endured, like those on social justice and taxes.

“I still believe that New Jersey has the advantage when it comes to who’s going to come online first,” said Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.

Despite its progress on legal weed, the only thing that’s been constant in New Jersey’s legalization process has been delays. Murphy’s original 100-day goal came and went, as did an end-of-June deadline. For the past few months, legislative leaders have set new target dates only to see them blown by.

New York has yet to have any substantial marijuana debate in Albany.

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