After months of delays, Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders could meet behind closed doors later this week to try and hash out a plan to legalize recreational marijuana in the Garden State.

Several sticking points remain, including how much of a tax to impose and who should regulate legal weed: the state or an independent commission.

Murphy, state Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Craig Couglin, D-Middlesex, are expected to reach an agreement in the coming months because everyone seems to agree making recreational pot legal would be beneficial economically.

Michael Hayes, an assistant professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University-Camden, sees two sides to this coin.

“The road will be bumpy. There’s no such thing as an easy, smooth implementation of a new, drastic change in policy like this," he said.

The professor noted if marijuana becomes legal, the Garden State will certainly see an uptick in agriculture production, which will have a positive impact.

“That could be jobs, that could be new businesses forming, middlemen positions like retail jobs being created as a result of this," he said.

He said a new marijuana industry will generate tax revenue that could boost spending on education or reduce property taxes.


But there will be problems as well.

Colorado, which legalized recreational weed, has seen an increase in car crashes.

If that happens here, Hayes said, “there is going to be public reaction and there’s going to be pressure on politicians and law enforcement to create additional laws and regulations.”

But what exactly those new laws and regulations might be is not yet clear. Hayes said establishing a system to regulate how much marijuana someone operating a motor vehicle can have in their system won’t be easy because there is no standard.

“I’m not aware of any type of test similar to a blood-alcohol content test like a breathalyzer for marijuana," he said.

“There’s also some evidence to suggest that college students are less productive and more distracted, and have a decline in their achievement" when they use marijuana, he said.

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