A lawn sign supporting the legalization of marijuana along Route 35 in Ortley Beach, Nov. 2020. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A lawn sign supporting the legalization of marijuana along Route 35 in Ortley Beach, Nov. 2020. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Supporters of legalizing cannabis came out in force Tuesday, propelling New Jersey to likely become the latest state to legalize recreational use.

In Ocean County, the results based on mail-in votes were overwhelming: 148,051 voters were in favor of legalization compared to 102,759 opposed. In all, 59 percent of the county’s voters favored legalization. Ocean County notably has the highest number of medical marijuana patients of any county statewide. Across the entire state, the measure won by an even higher margin of 67 percent in favor to 32 percent opposed, results showed at the time this article was published.

“Garden State voters spoke resoundingly,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. “They are demanding their lawmakers end the failed policy of marijuana criminalization, and instead pursue a more sensible path of regulation and legalization.”

The ballot question asked voters if they favored amending New Jersey’s constitution to legalize adult-use possession, production, and sale of marijuana to those age 21 or older. Though the measure passed resoundingly, the vote was technically non-binding since it was referred by the state legislature. The state senate and assembly must still act to formally enact the measure and create regulations and licenses for recreational marijuana sales.

“Their first priority should be bringing about an end to the tens of thousands of low-level marijuana possession arrests that occur each year in New Jersey,” said Carly Wolf, NORML’s State Policies Coordinator. “Once this is accomplished, they should then expeditiously move forward to meet voters’ second demand, which is to initiate regulations to license and oversee the commercial cannabis market in New Jersey.”