NJ marijuana lobby urges action on legalization
After Gov. Phil Murphy was elected last year we were told to expect recreational marijuana to be legalized by the summer of 2018.
When that didn’t happen, the governor and top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly said everyone was still on the same page but a few details had to be worked out in due time.
Last month, when the issue was raised again, legislative leaders said a bill would be introduced to legalize pot in late October. But in recent days, lawmakers indicated they’re still working on it and no one is sure when a measure will be finalized.
Groups and organizations looking to get into the recreational marijuana business in the Garden State are getting a bit antsy.
New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Scott Rudder said he understands this process takes time — but enough is enough.
“There’s been hearings, there’s been committee meetings, there’s a lot of discussions, there’s a lot of science behind it but right now it’s getting very frustrating,” he said. “We need to get past this, we need to resolve some of these issues. It’s very frustrating.”
He said we know scientifically cannabis is healthier than alcohol and safer than opioids so it’s time to get it legalized.
Rudder said several issues need to be resolved, including a tax system and how to deal with people who have been prosecuted for marijuana crimes.
He said New Jersey arrests an average 65 people a day for simple possession, costing government $130 million a year to maintain the criminal justice system.
While the governor and the two top Democrats in the Legislature are in favor of legalization, there are certain reluctant Democrats and Republicans.
“They just need to be encouraged and educated and have their concerns addressed with regard to cannabis legalization," he said.
When asked if he was concerned about a report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety last week that suggested states where recreational marijuana was legal had higher accident rates than neighboring states where pot was not legal, Rudder said absolutely not.
"It’s not surprising that the insurance industry funds a study that would benefit the insurance industry," he said.
He said when you look at the data, including a study recently in the American Journal of Public Health, there is no statistical difference in accident rates comparing states were cannabis is legal and where it’s not.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com