Will Cannabis affect the 2020 Elections?

Billions of dollars in business opportunities are riding on whether New Jersey residents legalize a recreational cannabis market in November.

A recreational marijuana industry in New Jersey itself – with a population of nearly 9 million people – would reach $850 million-$950 million in sales a year by 2024, according to a Marijuana Business Daily projection.

But that’s not all: Approval is expected to cause a domino effect along the Eastern Seaboard and inland, creating an adult-use marijuana region that is among the biggest in the world.

The population of four states (see graphic above) that have been discussing adult-use legalization – New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island – totals 37 million, more than quadruple the number of people who reside in New Jersey.

Already, a recreational marijuana industry has been established in Massachusetts, the 15th-most-populated state in the country. A smaller adult-use market in Maine is set to launch Oct. 9.

New Jersey “will be the final hurdle for New York, Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” predicted Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.

“It’s going to motivate the surrounding states for sure,” agreed Bridget Hill-Zayat, a cannabis attorney with Hoban Law Group who is licensed to practice in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For example, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has been pushing hard in recent weeks to legalize recreational marijuana, but he is getting resistance from top Republican lawmakers.

Wolf’s urgency is heightened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused tax revenues in the country’s fifth-most-populated state to fall. Marijuana could be part of the solution to those budget woes.

But Wolf also likely sees the implications of Pennsylvania lagging behind New Jersey.

For example, adult-use marijuana stores in Camden and Trenton, New Jersey, are likely to attract customers from nearby Philadelphia – and not just recreational customers.

“A lot of medical marijuana customers will go over to New Jersey, and that’s a significant amount of revenue Pennsylvania is going to lose,” Hill-Zayat said.

The last thing Pennsylvania needs is to not only miss out on potential adult-use revenue but also lose some of its growing MMJ revenue across the border.

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