The Conflict of Marijuana Legalization in New Jersey and the Rest of the Northeast

The debate in New Jersey over legalizing adult-use marijuana continues to rage. Voters elected Governor Phil Murphy into office in 2016 who campaigned hard on legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey. It was a massive swing for the Garden State after having Chris Christie, a cannabis legalization opponent, serve as governor for many years. Governor Murphy has had a seriously uphill battle in trying to get a bill that state legislators are willing to accept which would allow retail stores to open that sold adult-use cannabis. Some of the first steps happened today whenย New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told all municipal prosecutors to hold off on pursuing any marijuana offenses until September 4th, virtually decriminalizing marijuana for the rest of the summer.

There are two predominant perspectives on cannabis legalization and the health of a community. The perspective of people that are proponents to legalization argue that it would stop arrests for cannabis possession and lead to expunging records of people that have been convicted of non-violent marijuana related crimes and clemency being granted to people serving time currently. Criminal records can keep people from getting jobs and and entry into schools of higher education. They also believe it would eliminate the illicit market overtime ending the violence associated with drug dealers selling illegal marijuana.

Marijuana legalization opponents, such as State Senator Ronald Rice, see cannabis as nothing other than a gateway drug. In a recent interview with a local station,ย NJTV, he said,ย “If, in fact, we legalize recreational marijuana … they’re going to put up stores that do retail selling of cupcakes with marijuana, candies with marijuana, sex toy oils with marijuana, lipsticks with marijuana, all those kind of products that kids can get and people can get.” This perspective suggests that drug use of any sort leads to the deterioration of a community and violent crime.

These debates are raging hard in the Northeast corner of the country. The west coast of the United States has embraced the legalization of cannabis. California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado all have adult-use markets up an running. It is not a conservative or liberal issue either. The northeast and west coast typically vote for democrats for president, but they are plainly divided on the issue of cannabis. North Dakota, a deeply red state, will vote on creating an adult-use market later this year.

Whether cannabis is a gateway drug or whether marijuana prohibition has led to social injustice is a northeast issue. Maine’s Governor LePage sees cannabis as a gateway drug and has vetoed all adult-use bills legislators have sent his way despite voters approving cannabis legalization in 2016. Massachusetts has legalized adult-use cannabis and its commercial sale but authorities failed to issue permits in time for the kickoff on July 1st wanting to make sure they do it the right way. New York’s Governor Cuomo is also on the fence about marijuana legalization for his state despite a health department report that suggested that cannabis legalization is viable.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions marijuana, when will weed be legal everywhere
Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Plainly individuals like New Jersey State Senator Ronald Rice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Maine Governor Paul LePage battle with bias on a regular basis. State Senator Rice’s comment about sex toys, AG Sessions’s past comments about marijuana and the KKK are all very prejudiced comments that really having nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana. However, these perspectives are not unique to them. They are old beliefs that have pushed for a more conservative lifestyle here in the United States and which was a founding belief of the people that fist formed this country originally.

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