New Jersey Should Tax and Regulate Marijuana

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PHOTO: Lefty Grimes/SativaCross

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey urges the state to adopt a program of legalized, taxed and regulated marijuana distribution for adults, similar to the program in Colorado.

This is the most efficient way to meet the needs of the numerous patients in this state who can be helped by medical marijuana. Marijuana has tremendous therapeutic potential, yet countless patients will have to suffer needlessly for the foreseeable future without safe and legal access to marijuana therapy.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana law is the most restrictive in the nation, yet even here we recognize marijuana as an effective treatment for seizures, glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease, neurological conditions, muscle spasticity, hospice patients, and cancer and HIV/AIDS patients with chronic pain, nausea and vomiting, or the wasting syndrome.

One in three residents of the Garden State will have a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. Over 25,000 hospice patients die every six months here.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of marijuana’s therapeutic potential, which includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder along with a host of other mental, emotional and physical conditions.

The current policy of prohibition of marijuana is not only ineffective, it causes tremendous harm. After decades of marijuana prohibition, marijuana is more available, stronger and cheaper than ever before. The violence associated with the illegal drug trade is ever-escalating, and devastating to our inner cities.

There are 22,000 marijuana arrests a year in New Jersey, most for simple possession. Those convicted of a marijuana offense often find that the civil penalties are far more disastrous to their lives than the criminal penalties.
Civil penalties can include:
Expulsion from public housing;
Loss of student loans;
Loss of employment;
Loss of parental rights;
Loss of driver’s license.

It makes no sense to destroy people’s lives in an effort to keep them from using a plant that has never killed anyone and that is about as addictive as caffeine.

The prohibition of marijuana relies on the fundamental dishonesty that there are no accepted medical uses for marijuana and that marijuana is extraordinarily unsafe. Teenagers who are misled about marijuana distrust all drug education.

For the last 30 years in a row, the Monitoring the Future surveys show that over 80% of high school seniors here say that marijuana is “easy to get.” This is the legacy of prohibition. It is harder for high school kids to get beer or cigarettes than marijuana.

A system of taxation and regulation would impose reasonable rules for the production and distribution of marijuana, including responsible use by adults only.

Colorado expects to add $134 million in taxes in its first year of legalized marijuana, along with all the avoided costs associated with enforcing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.

Taxation and regulation of marijuana is a prescription for success in New Jersey.