Back in August New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney told POLITICO in an interview that he believed a “legalized” marijuana bill would pass by the end of September. At the time Sweeney told POLITICO that he was confident Democrats would secure the needed votes to pass a “legalized” marijuana bill. Sweeney apparently is so confident that a “legalized” marijuana bill will pass in New Jersey he said “Don’t be surprised when people who say they were against it vote for it” predicting some Republican support. Apparently we’ll find out shortly as several news outlets reported today that the legislature plans to vote on the measure to “legalize” marijuana on October 29th.
I’ve discussed this topic before on the Positively Pennsauken News Blog but I feel as a vote is getting closer it’s worth repeating. Personally I have not yet done enough research on the merits of medical marijuana. The only comment I will make about medical marijuana is that it like recreational marijuana remains federally illegal. If medical marijuana is to be “legalized” it must be done at the federal level and regulated like any other drug. This blog post is about recreational marijuana.
You may wonder why I put quotes around “legalized” when discussing states “legalizing” marijuana. That is because the thirty states and the District of Columbia that have “legalized” marijuana and a total of 46 states that have some form of marijuana laws (laws regarding “legalized” marijuana, “decriminalizing” marijuana and “medical marijuana”) have done so against federal law. Marijuana is illegal under federal law (See the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811)). Under federal law marijuana is treated like every other controlled substance, such as cocaine and heroin. The federal government places every controlled substance in a schedule, in principle according to its relative potential for abuse and medicinal value. Under the Controlled Substances Act marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means that the federal government views marijuana as highly addictive Federal marijuana laws are very serious and punishment for people found guilty is frequently very severe. Federal law considers marijuana a dangerous illegal drug despite not enforcing marijuana laws.
In anticipation of a law “legalizing” marijuana dozens of municipalities in New Jersey have pre-emptively banned marijuana sales including Oceanport, Hazlet, Parsippany, Middletown, Brick, Barnegat, Garfield, Mahwah, Pont Pleasant Beach, Toms River and others.
I give credit to Pennsauken Township Committee on this. Pennsauken adopted a resolution stating it would abide by federal law and marijuana sales in Pennsauken would not be allowed despite any state laws “legalizing” marijuana.
The New Jersey Association of Police Chiefs opposes “legalized” marijuana legislation. John J. Zebrowski, Chief of the Sayerville Police Department stated in an article posted on NJ.com “our membership believes the legalization of recreational marijuana will adversely impact the quality of life of our residents”.
We are a nation of laws and our government cannot pick and choose which laws it enforces. Additionally state law does not trump (pun intended) federal law. If citizens want recreational marijuana legalized they must go to their federal representatives. No state can “legalize” marijuana while it remains federally illegal.
A “legalized” marijuana law passing in New Jersey appears to be a foregone conclusion. When NJ passes a “legalized” marijuana bill I will be making calls to Washington DC with a request that federal marijuana laws be enforced in New Jersey. I hope that other law abiding citizens in New Jersey will do the same.