New Jersey lawmakers have introduced two different bills that would legalize recreational cannabis for the entire state (a third bill would allow it only in Atlantic City). Both bills are a huge step forward for the state of New Jersey, who has only seen minor improvements to their medical marijuana program recently.
The two bills are very similar in the fact that they would allow cannabis to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores – however the similarities end there. The bill introduced by Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll would regulate marijuana in a similar fashion to tobacco, allowing adults 19 years and older to purchase it where available (19 being the legal age to buy tobacco in New Jersey); that particular bill would also create a program to expunge criminal records with certain marijuana related convictions – something very much needed in states that choose to end prohibition.
“The whole point here is to get the government out of the business of treating at least marijuana use as a crime and treat it instead as a social problem,” Carroll told Politico. “To me it’s just not a big deal. It’s already ubiquitous. Anybody who thinks this is somehow going to increase the availability of marijuana has never been 19.”
The other bill, introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, would regulate marijuana in a similar fashion to alcohol – the main differences between this bill and the first being the legal age would be 21 years old and it does not include a plan to work on expunging criminal records. Either way, however, it would be a tremendous step forward if they were able to get it passed – and clearly the New Jersey lawmakers are ready to see something done about the needless war on the cannabis plant.
“I think what’s really exciting is that folks across the political spectrum have realized that prohibition isn’t working in New Jersey and they are looking to follow the good example set by Colorado and other states,” said Kate Bell, legislative council for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Unfortunately, there are a few flaws with their intentions – including the fact that if grocery stores and convenience stores sold cannabis they would likely be subject to much higher taxes, not to mention the fact that Governor Chris Christie has been adamantly against cannabis legalization during his entire time in office and has said before he would veto any bill that came to his desk on the subject.
However, Christie is not able to be re-elected in 2017, so perhaps this is the right time to introduce this legislation – in the end we can hope and keep watch on how all this will unfold over the following months.