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Three members of the New Jersey’s legislative black caucus have cosponsored a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, even as the caucus chairman, state Sen. Ron Rice, is leading the opposition against the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Rice supports only decriminalizing marijuana and has accused Gov. Phil Murphy and other lawmakers of holding his legislation hostage in favor of the tax revenue that could be generated with full-fledged legalization.

“Everybody is holding people hostage, saying we won’t do this unless we do legalization, because if we do legalization we can make some money,” Rice said.

“No one can say that recreational marijuana is not happening in our communities. We can take the position of ignoring it and turning a blind eye to it. Or, what I’m doing as well as other members, is we’re thrusting ourselves into the conversation to be a part of regulating it and to ensure we have a level playing field,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union), a member of the caucus who signed on last month as the prime sponsor of a legalization bill, NJ A 3819 (18R).

Two other caucus members, Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex), have also signed on to sponsor the bill.

Murphy’s proposed budget is banking on the Legislature to pass a legalization bill by Jan. 1, 2019, to generate $60 million in tax revenue.

Rice, who stressed that every member of his 18-member caucus is “entitled to their own opinion,” said decriminalization should come before legalization, which is what happened in each of the other nine states that has legalized marijuana.

h/t: Politico