TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney says he intends to take up the issue of legalizing marijuana in the state as soon as the next governor assumes office in 2018.

The Republican governor has said he believes that medical marijuana, which has been legal in the state since 2010, is a gateway to recreational pot smoking.

Fresh off a trip to Colorado to explore the legal marijuana industry, Sweeney says he and other state lawmakers were impressed with how regulated, safe and profitable the business has been there. 

“The positives are job creation, there’s 28,000 direct jobs that are related from the marijuana industry. There’s an increase in tax revenue, 128 million out there, we would estimate about 250 million in New Jersey,” he told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas said.

Sweeney says legalized marijuana could be a “game-changer” for New Jersey’s economy.

Gov. Chris Christie has long said he will veto any such bill.

“We’ll have this firmed up, ready to go, in the very first quarter of the next administration in ’18,” Sweeney said.

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