Legalize marijuana? Let’s not move so fast, (new) Governor
Gov.-Elect Phil Murphy has some big ideas on raising taxes, raising the minimum wage, increase spending and fighting President Trump. One of his ideas that he campaigned on, an idea that certainly got some positive traction among younger voters, was legalizing marijuana.
He doesn't want to stop at decriminalization; he wants it legal across the board. My guess from listening to him campaign and, judging by the Democratic majority in the Assembly and New Jersey Senate, is he thought this would be an easy one. He probably didn't expect a swift response from someone in his camp like Sen. Ron Rice voicing his concerns. Then there's the fierce opposition voiced by Republican Sen. Joe Pennachio, pointing out some very sensible facts that would cause anyone in New Jersey to take a pause regarding the issue.
Murphy started his campaign talking about legal pot in terms of revenue, even adding a projected $300 million tax windfall from the move to his $1.3 billion promised tax hike. But according to stats in Colorado, the revenue from the experiment is far lower than what would be needed in New Jersey.
Then there's the issue of the spike in traffic accidents and hospitalizations directly related to marijuana use. Traffic fatalities related to marijuana in Colorado are up 48 percent since legalization. All of this increases the cost of emergency services and law enforcement, and these costs may far outweigh even the highest projection of revenue.
Then there's the issue of social justice. Murphy campaigned on the issues of minority youth being jailed for relatively minor offenses related to possession of pot. Legalization became a sort of civil rights rallying call. Arrests among black and Latino youth actually skyrocketed after legalization, according to the Colorado Department of Public Safety.
So revenue that will likely be much lower than projected, spikes in marijuana roadway deaths, increased arrests among minority youth, potentially higher insurance costs, increases in hospitalizations and higher emergency service and law enforcement costs all add up to a terrible deal for NJ residents and taxpayers. Seems Sens. Pennachio and Rice are onto something here. This isn't about the fairness of whether a person would be jailed for using pot, it's about the bigger picture of public safety, law enforcement and government spending that we can't afford. Seems Murphy may have a much harder path to travel for this idea.
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