New Jersey has voted to legalize marijuana.
On Election Day, voters approved Public Question 1, which means the state will legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults 21 and older, with New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission in charge of marijuana production and sales, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. The measure was open-ended on several fronts — including on taxes and whether home growing will be allowed — instead leaving it to the legislature to work out the details.
It was the legislature, with the support of Gov. Phil Murphy (D), that placed the measure on the ballot after it failed to pass its own legalization bill.
New Jersey already allowed marijuana use for medical purposes. The new law expands legalization to recreational and other nonmedical uses.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But starting with President Barack Obama’s administration, the federal government has generally allowed states to legalize cannabis with minimal federal interference.
Before Election Day, 11 states and Washington, DC, had legalized marijuana, although DC doesn’t allow recreational sales. Change has moved quickly across the US: A decade ago, no states allowed marijuana for recreational purposes.
Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.
Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will create a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries in particular, which have built their financial empires in large part on the backs of the heaviest consumers of their products. And they argue ending prohibition could result in far more people using pot, potentially leading to unforeseen negative health consequences.
In New Jersey, voters have sided with legalization supporters.
For more on the debate over marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.