By Howard Monroe

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Voters in New Jersey approved the use of recreational marijuana on Tuesday, but it will be a long time before smoking or ingesting pot in the state is legal. While an estimated two-thirds of voters approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana use, the day to freely light up could be a while away.

“I would say at least a year. It’s probably going to be at least next Christmas before we even get a whiff at some sales,” activist Jay Lassiter said.

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Lassiter advocated for medical marijuana years ago and was instrumental in getting recreational marijuana on the ballot.

“Between the time voters demanded this change and the time the change is actually enacted, that’s going to be a huge gap and if we’re not keeping the pressure on, then the lawmakers are going to go sideways and forget about this and deprioritize something that New Jersey voters have demanded,” Lassiter said.

On Monday, lawmakers in Trenton will begin the process. A bill to decriminalize possession of up to six ounces of marijuana and distribution of one ounce will be debated.

Lassiter says decriminalizing is important because, without it, people could be arrested while rules and regulations on the new industry are implemented.

“We all pay whether you’re Republican, Democrat or somewhere in the middle, we’re all paying for people whose lives have been compromised by low-level pot arrests. They get arrested, can’t get the right job, can’t get financial aid, lose kids,” he said.

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Also, on Monday the state senate will hear a bill that establishes the industry. It includes who would be licensed to sell marijuana, the new industry will be regulated by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

“New Jersey is poised to mark its position as a leader in advancing racial and social justice. the opportunities for equity that lay ahead are limitless and I look forward to seizing them for the benefit of New Jersey’s communities disproportionately harmed by past policies,” Dianna Houenou, director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said.

Both bills will be taken up in the New Jersey senate Monday morning at 10 a.m.


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