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A Snag For Legal Marijuana In New Jersey? New Assembly Speaker Won't Commit

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Quote Originally Posted by Ron Strider View Post
Minutes after being chosen Monday as the next speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, Craig Coughlin declined to commit to a key goal of Gov. elect and fellow Democrat Phil Murphy: legalizing marijuana.

Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said during a news conference that he has "not indicated" whether or not he supports legal pot.

"I want to make sure it makes sense," said Coughlin, a member of the Assembly since 2010 . "As with any bill -- particularly any bill that would create something new -- I think the devil is really in the details. And I think we need to understand it in its totality."

"Even if we're going to do it, I want to make sure the bill is the right bill," he added.

Spokespeople for Murphy did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has been staunchly opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, calling it a "gateway drug."

But Murphy, who won last Tuesday's election and will succeed Christie in January, has vowed to legalize and tax marijuana. He says it's needed to make the criminal justice system more fair and that it will bring in more than $300 million a year in tax revenue.

Once Murphy assumes office, Democrats will control the governor's seat and both houses of the state Legislature.

Democratic state lawmakers have already introduced bills to legalize recreational marijuana. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has pledged that his house will pass such a measure within the first few months of Murphy's administration.

But for the bill to reach Murphy's desk, it would also have to pass the Assembly, the Legislature's lower house.

Assembly Democrats voted Monday to make Coughlin its new leader come Jan. 9, when he will be sworn in to replace current Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson.

Coughlin was asked Monday whether he believes legalizing marijuana is right at a time when the U.S. is battling an opioid addiction epidemic. Scholars disagree on whether marijuana leads to opioid use. Some say it helps treat opioid addiction.

"There are gonna be arguments on both sides of what the effect of legalizing marijuana is," Coughlin said. "I think in order to determine whether that's right and best in the state of New Jersey, we need to hear those arguments, right? I think that's why we have committee hearings."

"The hallmark that I would like to see this Assembly have it to be thoughtful," he added. "Have people at the end of the day say, 'They really thought about this stuff. They paid attention to it.'"

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