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If the New Jersey Assembly voted to legalize marijuana tomorrow, the bill would pass with votes to spare. Not so in the State Senate where the votes were never there.
The tally is reportedly very close however.
That makes the cluster of NO votes from South Jersey so conspicuous. Namely we’re referring to Senators Beach, Cruz Perez, Madden, Addiego, Andrzejczak, and Brown, all reportedly NO votes on cannabis legalization. All but one (Brown) are George Norcross loyalists.
It was hard not to notice the same districts that tanked marijuana legalization in 2019 also sank marriage equality legislation back in 2010.
The New Jersey Senate first voted on gay marriage back on January 7, 2010 and it failed spectacularly. The final tally: 20 NAYs, 14 YAYs and 5 abstentions.
The late Jim Whelan was the only Senator south of I-195 to vote yes that day. All of his south Jersey colleagues voted no or abstained.
All of of them.
Coincidentally, these very same districts are the primary obstacles to cannabis legalization in 2019.
Let’s take a peek, shall we?
NJ’s 1st legislative district which includes Cape May County plus parts of Atlantic and Cumberland is represented by Senator Bob Andrzejczak, machine democrat, who took his seat when Jeff Van Drew went to Congress. Van Drew voted against gay marriage each and every time it came before him including that first Senate vote in 2010.
Fast-forward to today and Senator Andrzejczak is a NO vote on cannabis legalization in 2019.
There’s an easy example of the point I’m trying to make that social change usually happens in New Jersey despite the South Jersey democrats.
Back in 2010, NJ’s (Atlantic County-centric) 2nd legislative district was rep’d in Trenton by the late Jim Whelan, a democrat and the only Senator south of I-195 to vote YES on marriage equality when the Senate took a vote in 2010.
The seat is currently held by GOP State Senator Chris Brown, who’s reportedly a SOFT NO vote on legalized cannabis.
This district is the exception that proves the rule that most social change in New Jersey comes despite the southern contingent.
New Jersey’s 3rd legislative district is Salem and most of Gloucester and Cumberland Counties. NJ Senate President has held this seat since 2002.
When marriage equality came before the full senate in January of 2010, Sweeney chose to abstain altogether. He didn’t vote. He just sat there in the well of the Senate, stone-faced and stubborn, as the atmosphere grew increasingly dramatic around him.
Sweeney was the Senate majority leader at the time, an ironic title for someone unwilling to lead one way of the other.
The drama was provided by outgoing Senate President Dick Codey who surely knew the knives were out for him. Knowing it would embarrass his vanquisher for all eternity, Codey gave us one last memorable spectacle that enabled lawmakers like Steve Sweeney to reveal their true selves.
Which they surely did.
Sweeney says he wants to end cannabis prohibition. But his unwillingness (or inability) to coax any more votes from fellow Norcross Dems reveals his priorities, namely to deprive the Governor a win on this issues.
On stuff like gas pipelines and Dana Redd’s pension, South Jersey democrats march lock step. But the minute you wanna let gays get married or try to stop locking people up for weed, they lose their courage and scamper.
New Jersey’s 4th Legislative district seat is held, then and now, by Senator Fred Madden a big fat HELL NO on legalization now and forever. His NO vote on marriage equality on 1/10/2010 still stings.
Just more resounding proof that social change usually happens in New Jersey despite the South Jersey democrats.
Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez represents the Camden City-based 5th legislative district and is reportedly a soft NO on legalization.
This seat was open during the ill-fated marriage vote on 2010. Outgoing Senator Dana Redd became Mayor of Camden only days prior (Jan 5 2010) and Donald Norcross didn’t take over that seat until January 19th.
If you’re keeping score, through five districts, we’re up to 1 YES vote on marriage (Whelan RIP) and 1 unenthusiastic YES vote to legalize pot in Sweeney.
This suburban Camden County district is represented in Trenton by Senator James Beach who’s reportedly not quite ready to legalize pot just yet. He wasn’t ready to legalize gay marriage the first chance he got either and like Sweeney, he too abstained back in 2010.
The west side of sprawling Burlington County makes up the 7th district, currently represented by Senator Troy Singleton, an outspoken proponent of cannabis legalization. He’s a firm YES vote with a durable track record to prove it.
Singleton replaced Former Senator Diane Allen who was undergoing cancer treatment in 2010 and medically unfit to make the marriage vote. Senator Raymond Lesniak once told me he explored the possibility of transporting his ailing colleague via sterile ambulance into the State House parking garage if they got to 20 YES votes and needed her to bring it over the top.
But it’s hard to get close to 20 votes when Senators are abstaining in clusters but I digress.
Burlington’s east side makes up NJ’s 8th legislative district, rep’d in 2010 by Senator Phil Haines – NO on marriage equality – who’s currently a BurlCo superior court judge.
The 8th’s current Senator Dawn Addiego voted down gay marriage as an Assemblywoman every chance she got. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she’s not not ready to end cannabis prohibition.
The math is super easy on this one: 1) only one of eight South Jersey senators voted YES the first time they had the chance to approve gay marriage and 2) only two (of 8) South Jersey Senators are poised to vote to legalize pot in 2019.
In both cases, 7 of the 8 legislators were Norcross-aligned Democrats.
- Atlantic County
- Burlington County
- Camden County
- Cape May County
- Chris Brown
- Cumberland County
- Dana Redd
- Dawn Marie Addiego
- Diane Allen
- Dick Codey
- Donald Norcross
- Fred Madden
- George Norcross
- James Beach
- Jay Lassiter
- Jeff Van Drew
- Jim Whelan
- Nilsa Cruz-Perez
- Phil Haines
- Phil Murphy
- Ray Lesniak
- Steve Sweeney
- Troy Singleton
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