Voters asked to weigh in on legalized marijuana, tax credit for veterans, changing legislative redistricting schedule

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While voters are focused on the presidential election and their own local elections, they will also be asked to weigh in on public questions on the Nov. 3 general election ballot that would amend the New Jersey Constitution on a number of issues – chief among them, legalizing marijuana.

The ballot asks voters to approve or disapprove an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution to legalize marijuana. Another amendment would expand property tax deductions or exemptions to peacetime military veterans.

If voters approve of an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution to allow the sale of cannabis – which is a form of marijuana – to adults, oversight would be provided by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The commission was established in 2019 to oversee the state’s medical marijuana program.

Cannabis would be sold in retail stores, and subject to the state sales tax. Municipalities also may impose a local tax on cannabis products, according to an interpretive statement that appears on the ballot.

The New Jersey League of Women Voters analyzed the question, and suggested reasons why a voter might approve or disapprove it on the league’s website, www.Vote411.org.

Among the reasons for voting against legalizing marijuana is that its increased use could lead to more car crashes. Drunk drivers can be detected by an alcohol Breathalyzer, but similar technology does not exist for detecting the level of impairment of a driver who uses marijuana.

Legalizing marijuana also could lead to overuse or abuse, as well as unintended access to those under 21 years old. Given that it would be taxed, the underground market for marijuana would likely still exist, according to www.Vote411.org. It would be less expensive and not subject to the sales tax.

Finally, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

There are reasons to approve legalizing marijuana – starting with the prospect of creating jobs, increasing state sales tax revenue and possible local tax revenue. It would lead to reduced costs that arise from arresting, prosecuting and punishing people for cannabis-related offenses, according to www.Vote411.org.

Countering the argument that it is not possible to determine whether a driver has been impaired by marijuana use, specially trained police officers – drug recognition experts – can recognize drug effects. Also, regulating the sale of marijuana would ensure quality control, unlike marijuana sold on the underground market.

Another public question asks voters to approve or disapprove an amendment to the state Constitution to extend a $250 deduction on property taxes to include military veterans who served during peacetime. The deduction currently is only available to veterans who served during times of war, and to their surviving spouses.

The question also asks whether a full property tax exemption for disabled military veterans who suffered injuries during wartime should be extended to include veterans who became disabled during their peacetime military service.

Veterans who live in a continuing care retirement community would not be eligible for the full property tax exemption.

The reason to vote against it, according to www.Vote411.org., is that it would cost New Jersey about $13.6 million more from the Property Tax Relief Fund in 2020. The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services provided the estimated additional costs.

The reason to vote for the measure to extend property tax relief is that it is one way to recognize military veterans’ service to the United States of America, regardless whether they served during war or peace, according to www.Vote411.org.

The third ballot question asks for a Constitutional amendment to change the legislative redistricting schedule if census data is delayed.

Typically, New Jersey requires an Apportionment Commission to create new legislative districts in the year following the federal census. This means that New Jersey’s legislative districts are currently created and certified in years ending in one (2021). New Jersey holds legislative elections in years ending in one (2021), and a new map is in place in time for those elections. This is done to ensure that the districts most accurately represent the state’s population – how it has moved and changed.

This question asks voters if they approve delaying the certification of new legislative maps if census data is received after February 15 of the year ending in one (such as 2021). This delay would mean that New Jersey’s Apportionment Commission would have until March 1 of a year ending in two (2022) to create new legislative districts and state legislative elections would be held under the new map in years ending in three (beginning in 2023).

This would be a permanent change and this delayed scheduled would apply every time New Jersey received the Census data after Feb. 15.

The reasons a voter might vote “no,” according to www.vote411.com, focus on the population in New Jersey being more racially diverse than 10 years ago, and extending the current district lines for two years means that these populations will not be accurately reflected or politically represented for an additional two years; there are other solutions, such as changing the primary election date in 2021, switching from odd to even year elections, or using existing map for just one year; and since this change is permanent, this would limit flexibility in handling delays for future census counts not affected by a pandemic.

Reasons a voter might vote “yes,” according to www.vote411.org, include March 1, 2022, certification of new legislative district lines gives more time for the redistricting process in determining new legislative map; the proposed delay avoids compressing primary timelines, providing a normal timeframe after new districts are certified to field and run candidates for 2023; and the option prevents possible multiple one year terms and elections, such as an election in 2021 under the old map (if Census data was delayed), followed by a special election in 2022 and a regularly scheduled 2023 election.

For more information, visit www.vote411.org/ballot