The beast of prohibition has terrorized New Jersey long enough, and now a powerful alliance of marijuana supporters have assembled to see it to its grave. Earlier this week, a coalition comprised of city prosecutors, members of the ACLU, and law enforcement officials, banded together to launch a campaign aimed at legalizing a recreational cannabis industry across the state.
In a press conference held in Newark, key representatives for the group called “New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform” announced it would begin lobbying for state legislation that would allow New Jersey to establish a taxed and regulated marijuana trade similar to that of four other states that have eliminated prohibition in their neck of the woods.
The goal of this initiative is to cripple the scourge of the black market, while generating millions of dollars for the state. “It is time to take marijuana out of our parks, and off of our street corners, and put it behind the counter,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU. “It is time to stop turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.”
The coalition has a very specific concept in mind in regards to the legislation it intends to support. So far, the focus is on developing a bill that would regulate marijuana in manner that closely resembles the alcohol industry: weed would only be sold to adults 21 and over, and the market would support an educational campaign to encourage responsible use.
The group is attracted to placing restrictions on possession limits, which will likely prevent anyone from holding more than an ounce of marijuana at a time. But they support home cultivation, and will probably get behind a proposal that allows individuals to grow up to six plants.
This is all well and good, but regardless of the cautionary restraints surrounding legislation to bring legal marijuana to the statewide marketplace, the organization will be forced to contend with the state’s pot-hating Governor, Chris Christie, and his relentless devotion to prevent anything resembling the green rush of the west from happening in New Jersey. Last year, Governor Christie spoke out against legalization on several different occasions, arguing that, “it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey,” and if any bill aimed at legalizing dope ever crosses his desk, he will veto it.
Yet, the coalition claims Christie’s negative perception of marijuana has not deterred them from embarking on a mission to reform the laws that make it illegal. “This is not necessarily a direct appeal to the governor,” said William Caruso, former executive director for the New Jersey Assembly. “(Our focus is) this movement, and getting the message out to the people.”
Although the coalition has not revealed plans for securing the campaign funds needed to see their efforts to fruition, the confidence displayed at this week’s press conference suggests the group already has money to play with. “This is a campaign that’s going to win, no matter what it takes,” said Ofer.