Is legalized weed coming to the Garden State? State Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill today that would legalize the retail sales and possession of marijuana in New Jersey. It would also allow people to cultivate their own marijuana plants. Scutari said access to marijuana should be no different from access to beer.
Following Colorado’s lead, Scutari said New Jersey could bring in $100 million in revenue. Scutari said he wasn’t concerned that Governor Chris Christie has vowed to veto any legalized weed legalization. He said Christie won’t be governor forever. The New Jersey bill that Scutari introduced would implement a seven percent sales tax on the retail sales of marijuana. Marijuana would be regulated in a way similar to alcohol where it could only be sold only at designated stores.
Under Scutari’s bill, 70 percent of the sales tax collected on marijuana would fund transportation and upgrades to infrastructure. The remaining balance would be applied to drug enforcement and woman’s health. Scutari claims the decriminalization of marijuana alone would save the state $100 million annually on costs for law enforcement and the courts. In fact, New Jersey imprisons 22,000 people per year for marijuana violations. New Jersey currently allows for the medicinal use of marijuana, but it is one of the nation’s most restrictive states.
Scutari said the legalization of recreational marijuana use would reduce the crime rates in several New Jersey cities, and eliminate or reduce the number of people who will receive criminal records for marijuana possession.
Scutari says its time to change the archaic drug laws of the state of New Jersey and get real about the negative effects that they have on the lives of people. Scutari claims he never smoked pot but believes criminal charges for simple possession of marijuana is a waste of police resources. It will take marijuana out of the black market, where legalized weed can be controlled, regulated and taxed as alcohol has been for decades.
The pursuit of legalized weed in the Garden State will still have many obstacles to overcome. For one, Governor Christie opposes any legislation that legalizes marijuana and he will serve at least until January 2018. Assuming he is not forced to resign or impeached over the recent George Washington Bridge scandal. He may also be a candidate for President in 2016 that could also cut short his term as governor. Scutari doesn’t expect his marijuana bill to be enacted quickly. He said a public hearing will be held within months, if the bill is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use this recent January. The state of Washington will implement legalized marijuana later this year. Twenty states currently have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. California, Alaska and Arizona are expected to have ballot proposals soon to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in their states. Senator Scutari hopes to see legalized weed coming soon to the Garden State. He points to the example of Colorado, which has created an industry that boosts state revenue, creates jobs, and has experienced very few problems so far.
By John J. Poltonowicz Twitter