Legalizing pot in Atlantic City? One NJ lawmaker says yes
One New Jersey lawmaker thinks legalizing marijuana in Atlantic City could help spur an economic upswing at a time when the city continues to struggle by job and revenue loses from the closures of four casinos in 2014.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora plans to introduce legislation next month to make recreational marijuana use legal in Atlantic City. He said legalized pot could be a boon for casinos, which could open dispensaries, and for the city's tourism industry because people would come from surrounding states.
"The Legislature is considering a package of bills to bail out Atlantic City so to speak, but nothing seems to be working except for throwing more money at Atlantic City," Gusciora said. "The problem with Atlantic City is people from Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York no longer go there because they have their own casinos."
Legalizing pot in the resort town would attract out-of-staters and a new generation of gamblers, Gusciora said.
"I think people from across the country would come out here for vacations and take advantage of legalized recreational marijuana. No other casino offers this, not even Nevada, so this would be unique. It's a way for our casinos to say that we have a unique experience," Guscciora explained.
The recreational marijuana would be legal only within the city limits of Atlantic City and for adults only.
A person would still be breaking the law if they bought the pot in the city and then smoked recreationally in another town. Casinos would not have to allow customers to smoke it indoors or set up smoking rooms, but they would be permitted to do either or both under Gusciora's proposed bill.
"This could create a new economic business cycle for Atlantic City rather than the government having to bail them out. In the very least, if someone was using recreational marijuana perhaps they wouldn't feel so bad with their gambling losses. They still would have fun," Gusciora said half-jokingly.
It's extremely unlikely the legislation would ever become law while Chris Christie is governor. He is a former federal prosecutor and as governor he has made it abundantly clear he would not sign a bill to make pot legal for recreational use.
"I don't care about the tax money that may come from it and I don't care quite frankly that people think it (legal recreational pot use) is inevitable," said Christie in the April 2014 "Ask the Governor" program.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.