Will Trump block marijuana? That would totally harsh NJ legislators’ mellow
New Jersey lawmakers say they're still planning on moving forward with marijuana legalization after Gov. Chris Christie leaves office — even thought they're wary President-elect Donald Trump's incoming attorney general could crack down on pot.
Trump said during the campaign he favors letting states decide whether marijuana should be legalized. But he recently invited Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who opposes legalizing recreational marijuana, to lead the Justice Department. The prospect of a Sessions-led law enforcement agency worries lawmakers in Democrat-leaning New Jersey.
Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari says he takes Trump at his word that he would let states decide the issue and plans to go forward with a bill that could see a hearing as soon as this year.
Scutari had been the organizaer of a bipartisan delegation of New Jersey lawmakers who traveled to Colorado this fall to check out that state’s marijuana industry. While not all committed to voting for marijuana legalization, they said they'd develop a plan over the next 15 months while Christie — a stanch opponent — remains in office.
“As soon as the governor gets situated, we’re all still here, we intend to move quickly on it,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said at the time.
“I really wish every legislator would have a chance to witness what we witnessed because there wouldn’t be one no vote if they saw it,” he said.
Scutari in October said marijuana legalization "is probably the single most important change that we can make in New Jersey and in America going forward.
“This type of industry, based upon what we’ve seen and research, has the overall ability to reduce crime, to increase the chances of people being in college and getting jobs later on and producing a boon for the economy in terms of all the jobs that it creates, direct and ancillary, not to mention the individual tax benefits," he said.
Christie pushed back hard on that notion on Monday's edition of "Ask the Governor," asking a caller who suggested legalizing marijuana to bring in tax money and blunt the impact of New Jersey's gas tax, "Are you high right now?"
“There is nothing we spend in government that is important enough to allow me to willfully poison our children for that money,” Christie said. “That’s blood money.”
Christie has long opposed recreational marijuana. But his administration has expanded the state’s Drug Courts, which focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders.
“You’re damn right I’m the only impediment," Christie said Monday. "And I am going to remain the only impediment until January of 2018."
— With reports from the Associated Press, Michael Symons and Sergio Bichao
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