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New Jersey to vote on legalization of recreational marijuana

New Jersey voters will decide the status of recreational marijuana in the upcoming election by voting on legalizing the drug via a ballot initiative.

The question will ask voters to approve or reject an amendment to the state constitution which would legalize possession of marijuana for all people 21 years old and over and pave the way for recreational cultivation, processing and retail sale. 

A recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University indicated that the measure is likely to pass, with voters saying they support legalization by a ratio of 2-to-1.

The use of marijuana on campus may still be prohibited even if the upcoming recreational marijuana referendum passes, according to Winston Roberts, associate dean of students at Seton Hall.   

“In the event of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by the state of New Jersey, the current student conduct drug policy itself may not change as marijuana would still remain illegal under federal law,” Roberts said. 

As per the drug policy in the University Student Code of Conduct, Seton Hall prohibits “use, possession, manufacturing, or distribution of marijuana… except as expressly permitted by law.”      

Roberts said he encourages students to do their research prior to voting.  

“The question of legalizing recreational marijuana has been on other state ballots and has passed,” Roberts said. “The voters, including college students, will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the decision to legalize marijuana. Voters have access to information from other states that have voted to legalize marijuana and the consequences that came with that decision.”  

Marijuana is currently legal in 11 states nationwide, including Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine. In addition to New Jersey, three other states—Arizona, Montana and South Dakota—are also voting on legalizing the drug this election. 

Bushra Choudhury, a sophomore finance major and resident assistant, talked about her views on the new referendum. 

“The banning and criminalization of marijuana I feel has had more negative effects in our country rather than positive, and as a result I feel like now the new referendum if it were to get passed would have more positive effects,” Choudhury said. “It would bring some sort of justice to the people who are currently in prison for possession of marijuana or some sort of marijuana charge.”    

Choudhury said her personal views are irrelevant to her job as a resident assistant. 

“At the end of the day, my job is to enforce policy,” Choudhury said. “So, if I see that someone has marijuana and they’re not supposed to, then it’s just my job to document it and follow the Housing and Residence Life policy.”  

Elyssa Curet, a sophomore diplomacy major said, “It’s not fair for the campus to say no if it’s legal in the state. In terms of affecting dorm and campus life, it should be similar to our alcohol policy in the sense that there is a certain amount you can have in a dorm.”    

Curet noted the health benefits of the drug, particularly for college students who struggle with physical ailments and mental health issues.  

“[If the measure passes], for the most part, it’s going to be positive,” Curet said. “Students will be able to utilize the herb for the benefit. For aches and pains, it could be better than Advil or Tylenol. But then again there’s always gonna be a concern just for youth, for people using it inappropriately. However, I think the benefits outweigh the possible negative effects.”   

Joseph Bolduc, a junior finance major, said, “I do think that it’s fair for the university to ban recreational use on campus. Open recreational use is typically only allowed in private residences.”   

Bolduc said he does not think recreational use would be detrimental to the health of youth. 

“I don’t think that legalizing marijuana will lead to an increase in addiction for young people,” Bolduc said. “In states with ample availability, teen use actually decreased [upon legalization].”

In one study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use among adolescent students has declined in King County, Washington, where the substance was legalized in 2012.    

Bolduc also mentioned the potential economic benefits accompanying recreational marijuana legalization.   

“I definitely feel that the referendum is a step in the right direction,” Bolduc said. “Legalizing marijuana in New Jersey will create thousands of jobs in a variety of capacities, from retail sales, cultivation and logistics. Cannabis will boost employment in the state. Millions of tax dollars will also be saved by no longer enforcing prohibition.” 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has tweeted in favor of recreational marijuana legalization and encouraged voters to mark “Yes” on the 2020 ballot referendum earlier this month.

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