Despite favorable poll numbers, N.J. legal weed activists say don’t take legalization for granted. – NJ.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: On March 10, NJ Cannabis Insider hosts its first semi-annual, daylong industry conference, featuring top leaders in the medical marijuana, hemp and legal cannabis industries. Tickets are now on sale.
There’s just 242 days until legal weed finally gets its day at New Jersey’s ballot box, and while many are optimistic the measure will pass, they caution against complacency.
“Despite the favorable polling, we are not granted with certainty that it will pass,” said Jackie Cornell, chief of policy and health innovations at 1906. “There is a lot work we, as a community, still need to do to educate voters. Statistically, we know that voters don’t always go down ballot, where the ballot question is.”
Cornell, a former principal deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, is slated to appear alongside Elise Grosso, director of the Cannabis Voter Project, and Sarah Fajardo, policy director of the Garden State branch of the ACLU at the NJ Cannabis Insider Live event March 10 to take part in a panel focused on voter activism. The event, presented by Curaleaf NJ, also counts on 1906 as a supporting sponsor.
The state legislature took a few runs at legalizing marijuana over the past year, but ultimately fell short of votes in the Senate. The two houses voted instead late last year to pose the question to voters in the form of a ballot referendum in November.
Some two-thirds of voters have said they support legalization, and many expect 2020 will bring a large swath of Democratic voters to the polls. But education and activism will still play a role in pushing legal weed over the finish line, experts say.
The ACLU plans to focus on working with lawmakers on a decriminalization bill and enabling legislation that will focus on social and racial justice issues over the next few months, while also making sure they encourage people to turn out and vote.
While fewer (and lacking in funds) compared to the legal weed coalition, groups like SMART have vowed to fight against the ballot question. Their efforts
Grosso, of the Cannabis Voter Project, said her organization mobilizes people by registering new voters and educating them, chipping away at misinformation and also connecting them to their representatives. HeadCount, a voter registration organization, found the Cannabis Voter division after seeing how legalization could bring first-time voters to the polls.
The organization often tables at targeted events, like concerts. When someone says they have never voted, or do not care about an election’s outcome, Grosso said they ask: “What is something you care about that will make you vote?”
“We’re really trying to use cannabis as a gateway to democracy, to have people become more involved in the process,” she said. “As there are more states that have legalized cannabis, there is data to support it’s an issue that will bring people to the polls.”
Cornell echoed the sentiment.
“A lot of people don’t actually know that it’s on the ballot, so there’s a lot of education that needs to be done there. We need to engage with the public to make sure they go to the polls.”
A version of this story first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider
NJ Cannabis Insider is a weekly subscriber-based newsletter produced by NJ Advance Media, which also publishes NJ.com, The Star-Ledger and other affiliated papers.
Tickets to NJ Cannabis Insider Live! The Road to Legalization presented by Curaleaf NJ are still available.
This article originally appeared here in https://www.nj.com/marijuana/2020/03/nj-legal-weed-activists-say-theres-still-much-work-to-be-done-before-election-day.html