By Chloe Aiello

Advocates of legalized marijuana suffered a huge setback on Monday as New Jersey lawmakers canceled a vote on a broad legalization measure.

Legislative leaders called off the vote early in the afternoon after acknowledging that there were not enough votes in favor of the measure in the State Senate to ensure passage.

"While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy,” state the state's top lawmaker, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, said in a statement to

Despite the brave face displayed by Senator Sweeney, the decision to retreat from a vote was a major setback for Gov. Phil Murphy, who has been calling for marijuana legalization in New Jersey since he was elected in November 2017. He initially pledged to secure legalized marijuana in his first 100 days in office.

Opponents of the bill celebrated the day as a victory against what they called "rushed" legislation.

"We agree with one thing Governor Murphy said last week which was 'Monday or never.' And we do think it will be never at this point because there are too many unanswered questions," said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

But in a news conference after the decision to pull the legislation, Senator Sweeney insisted this wasn't the end of the fight for marijuana legalization. “We’ll be back at this," Sweeney said. "Anybody who thinks this is dead is wrong.”

He added: "Marijuana will get passed in the state of New Jersey one way or another.”

Sweeney and State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who sponsored the bill, assured proponents that they would not wait until after election day to push another vote, but that they would move forward as soon as they had the support they needed ー or 21 votes in the State Senate and 41 in the Assembly.

Still, the New Jersey decision is a remarkable turnabout. Only weeks ago, advocates of legalized marijuana were speculating whether New Jersey or New York would get there first. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York had also made it a priority to get legalization through the legislature in Albany in the initial months of 2019.

But just last week, Governor Cuomo gave up hope of getting legalization through the legislature during the annual budgeting process. And now with New Jersey's efforts stalled, it looks like neither New York nor New Jersey will be crossing the finish line any time soon.