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New Jersey Governor-Elect Promising Bold Criminal Justice Reform Agenda

Phil Murphy has promised marijuana legalization, end of cash bail and will look at ending minimum mandatory sentences

The landslide election of Phil Murphy to be the new governor of New Jersey is likely to put the Garden State at the forefront of criminal justice reforms in the United States.

Murphy, who defeated incumbent Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno earlier this week 56–43 percent, has promised to pursue multiple criminal justice reforms.

The reforms promised on his campaign website include creating a commission that will examine laws like mandatory minimums, fully implementing bail reform that is designed to end cash bail in New Jersey, legalize marijuana, expand body cameras on police officers and expand services that help people getting out of jail adjust to life on the outside.

“Mr. Murphy favors the legalization of marijuana, including for recreational use. His campaign claims it could yield $300 million in new tax revenue,” the New York TImes wrote. “Mr. Murphy also says that his marijuana policy is based on seeking to eliminate low-level drug offenses and reduce the number of people in prison.”

Murphy, a Democrat, will enjoy large majorities in the New Jersey House and Senate. The Legislature has been supportive of criminal justice reforms but struggled to get laws enacted due to the multiple vetoes of the outgoing governor, Republican Chris Christie.

“Given the state’s overall political lean, the Murphy administration will have fairly broad latitude to pursue a progressive agenda,” wrote Matthew Yglesias in Vox, while pointing out that New Jersey’s finances aren’t in great shape that could complicate some reform efforts.

Murphy will take office in January.