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Republican Lawmaker Wants New Jersey to Regulate Pot Like Tobacco

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Legalize marijuana, treat it like tobacco, and sell it at convenience stores. If one colorful conservative lawmaker from New Jersey has his way, that’s what will happen in the Garden State.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican, filed Assembly Bill 4193 on Monday for consideration in New Jersey’s 2016-2017 legislative session.  Carroll is also a lead sponsor of A2050, a bill introduced in January to decriminalize up to 15 grams of marijuana in the state.

Carroll, a right-winger with a strong libertarian strain, is known in the state for his contrarian bent. He refers to Gov. Chris Christie as “the Fat Man”; an avid Civil War re-enactor, he named one of his sons after Robert E. Lee.

Last time we checked, Lee was the guy fighting to preserve slavery.

Carroll’s latest proposal, A4193, would legalize marijuana for people 19 and older in New Jersey, and treat marijuana like tobacco products, the lawmaker says.  Text of the bill is not yet available.

Marijuana would be able to be sold in convenience stores and other retailers selling tobacco products statewide. There would be no limit to how much marijuana someone would be allowed to purchase or possess.

“The whole point here is to get the government out of the business of treating at least marijuana use as a crime and treat it instead as a social problem,” Carroll told Politico.

“To me it’s just not a big deal. It’s already ubiquitous. Anybody who thinks this is somehow going to increase the availability of marijuana has never been 19,” Carroll added.

The bill would remove marijuana completely from New Jersey’s criminal codes. Anyone caught selling or supplying marijuana to someone under age 19 would be subject to civil, not criminal, penalties.

Previous marijuana offenders would be able to have those charges expunged from their records if the bill becomes law.

Carroll’s proposal is a long shot, and currently has no co-sponsors. A separate proposal to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, A2068, was filed in January.  

A third bill is expected later this year after lawmakers return from a fact finding trip to Colorado.

If any bill to legalize marijuana is passed by the General Assembly, however, it would almost certainly be vetoed by anti-marijuana Governor Chris Christie.

Since taking office in 2010, Christie has been a roadblock to marijuana reform in his state, calling medical marijuana a “front for legalization” and stalling the implementation of the state’s 2009 medical marijuana bill by nearly three years.

During his unsuccessful attempt to win the Republican nomination for President, Christie said he would “crack down” on marijuana in the states that have legalized it if elected, and has called taxes generated by marijuana sales “blood money.”

In 2012, a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in New Jersey was passed by the Assembly but died in the Senate after Christie vowed to veto the bill.

As long as Christie remains in office, legalizing marijuana would take a significant amount of support in the General Assembly — enough to override a Christie veto.  But once the term-limited governor is out of office in January 2018, marijuana law reform in New Jersey may find itself with a more friendly face in the state ‘s top office.

For all the latest news on marijuana legalization, click here.

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