Although New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has become one of the snarling dogs of pot prohibition in the United States, threatening to veto any marijuana-related legislation that lands on his desk, lawmakers and other influential community leaders are still planning to meet next week to begin discussing how to make a true Garden State out of New Jersey through the legalization of marijuana.
Senator Nicholas Scutari, chairman of the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill earlier this year aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis trade, but that proposal, as well as a companion measure ended up getting sandbagged in committee. However, the lawmaker says he has since assembled a legion of powerful forces, including law enforcement officials, health experts and members of the clergy, to provide testimony before the committee in an attempt to breathe some new life into his proposed legislation.
“There is no question that we need to update our archaic drug laws in this country and the majority of people support regulating, taxing and legalizing marijuana,” Senator Scutari said in a statement. “This is a fact-finding hearing that we hope will help to continue to inform the committee and the Legislature as we take up this very important issue. This is a first step in the process of finally reversing our punitive marijuana laws that have caused harm to our residents and our communities.”
Despite the opinions of Governor Christie, there is a great deal of support for marijuana legalization in New Jersey. A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that nearly 50 percent of New Jersey’s residents support putting an end to prohibitionary times.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the ACLU indicates that the state has been spending in upwards of $127 million per year to bust people for weed.
Earlier this year, a statewide coalition consisting of city prosecutors, members of the ACLU and law enforcement banded together to begin petitioning state lawmakers for support on legislation that would allow marijuana to be sold in New Jersey in a manner similar to alcohol. There is speculation that this group will be a part of Senator Scutari’s committee hearing next Monday.
“We have to take a more reasonable approach to the regulation of marijuana,” Scutari said. “Legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana will bring it out of the underground market, making the product and our communities safer. It will allow law enforcement to re-dedicate their resources to where they are most needed. In addition, it will create revenue for the state to help fund critical programs and services for our residents. This is an opportunity to hear from stakeholders and the public about the best way to do that.”