Legalizing Marijuana in New Jersey

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Each year New Jersey sends about 22,0000 people to jail for smoking pot.  Waging such a punitive drug policy is costly: annually we spend $127,000,000 clogging up our jails and legal system in the name of marijuana prohibition.

But put those eye-popping numbers aside for a second.  Also, try to forget the racial disparity in pot arrests which see black residents nearly 3x more likley to get busted for pot than their white neighbors.  For me, the most compelling reason to legalize marijuana in New Jersey — ostensibly for recreational purposes — is for the medical marijuana patients who’ve been ill-served by the New Jersey’s highly-politicized medical marijuana program. 

Ken Wolski, Director Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ:

“(Gov. Chris Christie) has put significant roadblocks in the way of the state’s medical marijuana program. In the four years since the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law, only a few hundred patients have obtained medical marijuana here. New Jersey’s population  includes more than 25,000 hospice patients, along with tens of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients, cancer patients, glaucoma patients and others who would qualify for marijuana therapy, but who simply cannot legally obtain it.”

If you’re a US combat veteran with PTSD, or a 2-year-old child with epilepsy and your doctor recommends cannabis, you’re outta luck.  According to Chris Christie’s Department of Health, those illnesses simply aren’t grave enough to to expand NJ’s narrow list of qualifying conditions.

Again, likely for purely political reasons.  Repeated attempts to reform NJ’s medical marijuana program have met Chris Christie’s veto pen.  Last December, Christie told reform-minded types to just give up already.  “I’m done expanding the medicinal marijuana program under any circumstances,”  he said emphatically.

Why all the politics, Governor?

With one eye on the White House and another on his carefully choreographed tough-as-nails, law-and-order persona, Chris Christie has done everything in his power to sabotage legal access to medical marijuana in this state.  Presumably he reckoned any evidence of progress on social issues like medical marijuana would damage his hopes in a GOP presidential primary.  It’s not a hard conclusion to draw since everyone and their brother knows Chris Christie wants to be President.  And it’s hardly a surprise that Christie would destroy something he didn’t like for political purposes.  It’s not just medical marijuana. It’s kinda what he does.

That said, barely a fortnight into his second term, Chris Christie’s no longer the only game in town, a notion that would have been unthinkable six months ago.  With his reputation quickly going down the toilet as the #BridgeGate and Sandy subpoenas continue to fall, the days of Gov. Christie strutting around like he owns the place are over.  The strut is long gone.  Now the once nightly Governor Christie just looks sad.

Christie’s sudden and unexpected political neutering presents the perfect opportunity for cannabis reform activists to end marijuana prohibition.  NJ Senator Nick Scutari felt the same way which is why he’s poised to sponsor a bill to legalize modest amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use.