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Election 2020: New Jersey Votes To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Voters in the Garden State voted Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older through an amendment to the state constitution.

According to The Associated Press, with a little more than 59% of precincts reporting, 67% had voted in favor of passing the measure.

Those numbers currently better the most recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University before the election, which showed that roughly 60% of likely voters were going to vote "yes" on that ballot question, signaling New Jersey could soon be going green, CBS2's Meg Baker reported Tuesday.

"This is a great day for New Jersey. After years of political inaction, voters have definitively approved marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in 10 state-level legalization victories over the past eight years.

Latest Results: Marijuana Legalization Ballot Issue 2020

As Baker reported earlier, there was only a trickle of voters at Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, as most already turned in their mail-in ballot.

Resident Lila Maxwell said it was important for her to show up in person on Tuesday.

"This is an election of a lifetime," Maxwell said. "I received a mail-in ballot in the mail, but I just feel more comfortable bringing it in person."

FLASHBACK: New Jersey Residents Set To Vote On Amendment Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Others Baker spoke with said they misplaced their ballots, but luckily a backup option was available until polls closed at 8 p.m.

The question on the back of that ballot centered on whether New Jersey should go green. Marijuana legalization was in the hands of voters, after years of lacking legislative support.

"Most people know that marijuana is everywhere all the time already," state Sen. Nicholas Scutari said.

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Scutari, a Democrat, said it was a racial justice issue, adding arrests for possession are disproportionately higher for Blacks and Latinos, and it's about money.

"Create economic engine for the state, moving forward, but not just taxation, but with job creation," Scutari said.

But Republican Sen. Michael Doherty disagreed, saying the money that comes in may go right out.

"We've already seen in other states it hasn't brought in revenue and as a matter of fact it's increased law enforcement costs tremendously," Doherty said.

The New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police has cited concerns about drug-impaired driving and the toxicity of today's marijuana.

Political expert Jeanette Hoffman had said if New Jersey residents voted "yes," the state Legislature would have to pass a law and then create regulations.

"Setting up licenses for people who want to set up dispensaries. You're talking about setting a limit for THC on products such as for edibles. You're talking about setting up fines for driving under impairment," Hoffman said.

Legalization can officially occur in January 2021, but it's not like flipping a switch. In other states it has taken four-plus years to set up the industry.

More than 70 municipalities have signed a pact not to allow dispensaries in their towns.

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