A vote on “legalized” marijuana in NJ could take place as early as Monday

Just in time for New Jersey residents with short memories to forget Governor Murphy allocating $2.1 million for the defense of illegal immigrants and his #SnowGate fiasco hearings and a possible vote on a legalized marijuana bill will begin on Monday.  I have always believed that “legalized” marijuana is the only reason Murphy was elected.  Anyone who looks at Murphy’s agenda for New Jersey realizes that he’s pushing the revenue generators out of the state.  He told voters what he what do if elected (including raising taxes in a state with one of the highest tax rates in the country) yet he was elected anyway.  “Legalized” marijuana seems the only explanation.

You may wonder why I put “legalized” in parenthesis.  Despite some form of marijuana laws in 46 states (laws regarding “legalized” marijuana, “decriminalizing” marijuana and “medical marijuana”) 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.  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.  Just because the federal government under both the Obama Administration and Trump Administration has chosen not to enforce federal law in the states that have “legalized” or “decriminalized” does not give states the right to pass laws that override federal law.

marijuana leaf

On Monday morning at the Statehouse Annex the Democrat led NJ Senate and Assembly budget committees will debate a marijuana bill.  If approved the bill will move to the Senate and Assembly for a vote.  According to the Asbury Park Press the bill include;

  • S2703which would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes for those over 21, impose a 12 percent tax and allow municipalities to levy their own taxes on legal weed sales of up to 2 percent;
  • S10, which would increase the monthly medical marijuana cap to 3 ounces per patient, allow adults to purchase edible forms of cannabis and allow patients to visit any medical marijuana dispensary;
  • S2426which requires the Department of Health to issue licenses for 34 new medical marijuana dispensaries (and six new medical marijuana cultivation facilities) within 90 days;
  • S3205, a bill that would “revise certain procedures for expungement of records of conviction.” Details are not available because the bill has not been introduced yet

According to Fox 29 the bill to be debated Monday sets up a five-person cannabis commission charged with regulating marijuana.  The members would be full time and receive a $125,000 per year salary, while the chairman would get up to $141,000 annually.  The members would serve for five-year terms and would be appointed by the Governor with approval from the State Senate. Additionally the legislation calls for expediting expungements for people with marijuana-related criminal backgrounds.

The New Jersey legislature has already missed self imposed deadlines.  NJ State Senate President Sweeney and Governor Murphy have disagreed on the bill.  “We have been talking, and it’s time to move forward,” Sweeney told NJ Advance Media. “Hopefully, we can get to agreement with the Governor.”  My question to the Legislature is why rush this important piece of legislation to meet a self imposed deadline?  While I opposed legalized marijuana it’s important that the legislature get this right.

Murphy Sweeney Coughlin

As you know if you’ve read my prior blog posts on the subject I am firmly against any form of “legalized” recreational marijuana in New Jersey.  I am also a realist.  I realize that despite overwhelming evidence of the negative effects of marijuana usage and a study of the social impacts in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana a majority of Americans support legislation to legalize marijuana use. Those of us who are against the legalization of marijuana will have to accept that.  However I will continue to be against the federal government leaving marijuana legislation up to individual states.  This applies to both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.

The FDA regulates both prescription and over the counter drugs.  How is it that proposed legislation would leave the regulation of medical marijuana up to the New Jersey legislature when states do not regulate prescription or over the counter drugs?

If marijuana use in the United States is to become legalized I believe strongly it should be federal law not state law that regulates it’s use.

Still support “legalized” marijuana in New Jersey?  Research the impact of “legalized” marijuana in the states that have passed marijuana laws and put the potential negative social impacts on our state above your desire to legally get high.  I’ve provided just a few pieces of information below.

According to a study by the University of New England marijuana use will increase under legalization because it is accessible and available.  The study shows that legalized marijuana in Colorado is not well regulated, teen usage has increased (the study showed teen marijuana usage in Colorado is 50% above the national average) and the number of fatal car crashes with drivers testing positive for marijuana rose sharply.  The study also found that in states with medical marijuana laws the average user is a male in his 30’s with no terminal illness and a history of drug abuse.   According to the study marijuana contributes to psychosis and schizophrenia in 1 in 6 kids who ever use it once and reduces the IQ among those who started smoking before the age of 18.  The study goes on to state that legalized marijuana will increase public costs.  For every $1 in alcohol and tobacco tax revenues society loses $10 in social costs from accidents to health damage.

According to a March 2018 story in Forbes Magazine in Sonoma County California legalized marijuana has spawned home invasions, violent crimes and robberies.  In the article Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quoted as saying “We’re seeing real violence around [legal marijuana].  Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

According to a 2017 article in The Guardian Colorado has experienced an 8% increase in homelessness since marijuana legalization.   “There’s no question that marijuana and other drugs – in combination with mental illness or other disabling conditions – are essential contributors to chronic homelessness,” Governor John Hickenlooper was quoted in the article.  Daniel Starrett, a divisional commander of the Salvation Army. said “The marijuana industry needs to accept responsibility for unintended consequences of their impact on society,”.  He went on to say that the financial burden of marijuana use on struggling families can lead to them losing their homes.  Denver’s mayor, Michael Hancock, blamed legal marijuana for acts of violence in the city.  The mayor said “This is one of the results of the legalization of marijuana in Denver and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

A 2018 King’s College of London study showed that half of all first time patients admitted for drug treatment worldwide are for marijuana – even more than heroin and cocaine combined.

A 2017 Bristol University study found that teens who regularly smoke marijuana are 26-times more likely to begin using other drugs by the age of 21 and 3-times more likely to have an alcohol problem as compared to teens who don’t smoke marijuana.

A 2017 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute reported that car crashes are up in states that have decriminalized marijuana as compared to neighboring states.

A 2014 study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showed that marijuana smokes have shrunken brains and a lower IQ.

A 2014 paper written by Professor Wayne Hall to the World Health Organization provides the results of a 20-year research study.  Professor Hall reports that marijuana doubles mental impairment, psychosis, increases drop out, tobacco smoking, car accidents and rates of other illicit drug use.