Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Nicholas Scutari, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation today to seek voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 2020 to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey.

“We are moving forward with a plan to seek voter approval to legalize adult-use marijuana in New Jersey,” Sweeney said. “We introduced legislation today to authorize a public referendum for a proposal that will lead to the creation of a system that allows adults to purchase and use marijuana for recreational purposes in a responsible way.

“This initiative will bring cannabis out of the underground so that it can be controlled to ensure a safe product, strictly regulated to limit use to adults and have sales subjected to the sales tax.”

Legislative leaders fell short of having enough support to pass a previous measure to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in the Senate in March. Sweeney said last month they would try again during the current lame-duck legislative session that ends in mid-January.

But Sweeney acknowledged in today’s statement that “the votes just aren’t there.”

“We respect the positions taken by legislators on what is an issue of conscience,” he said.

“We will have the Legislature vote on the plan during the current legislative session and expect the proposal to be on the ballot in 2020, when voter turnout will be maximized for the national election. We are confident it will be approved by the Senate, the Assembly and the voters.”

In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy said he was disappointed that legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana was “not able to get done legislatively,” but added: “I have faith that the people of New Jersey will put us on the right side of history when they vote next November. By approving this ballot measure before the end of this legislative session, New Jersey will move one step closer to righting a historical wrong and achieving what I have spent more than three years advocating for.”