Legalize Marijuana

Marijuana is legal in NJ – right?

Yes … and no. The amendment to the NJ State Constitution legalizing the recreational use, cultivation, processing and retail sale of marijuana for persons age 21 and older took effect on January 1, 2021. While additional state-regulatory details are still being finalized by the NJ legislature, however, at the Federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic – the very same classifications as drugs like heroin and methamphetamines.

I believe that recreational marijuana should be removed from the Federal criminal legal system and carefully regulated for adult use, with equity, social justice, and community reinvestment at the core.

Marijuana is approved for medical use in 36 states and is fully legal in 13 states, including NJ. So, if you want to use recreational marijuana in NJ you can, right?  Not so quick!  At the federal level, possession, use, sale and cultivation of marijuana remain criminal offenses. But there’s hope.  The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act is making its way through congress.  This bill decriminalizes marijuana.  It should pass – but will it?

There is more public support for marijuana law reform than ever before with recent polls showing more than half the country is in favor of legalizing marijuana. 

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act proposes “removal of marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.”  

Vitally, this legislation will establish a trust fund to support programs for those impacted by the war on drugs, funded by a 5% federal tax on cannabis products. It also establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings for federal cannabis offenses and directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization.

Here are some facts published by Britannica ProCon.org, a reliable, non-partisan organization:

  • More than half of US adults have tried marijuana, even though its illegal under federal law. As of 2018, nearly 600,000 Americans were being arrested for marijuana possession annually – more than one person per minute. Public support for legalizing marijuana went from 12% in 1969 to 66% today. The legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 in Colorado and Washington cost Mexican drug cartels an estimated $2.7 billion in profits.
  • Legalizing recreational marijuana could add billions to the US economy, create jobs, free up police resources, and stop the racial disparities in marijuana enforcement. Legalization will take business away from the drug cartels, and make marijuana use safer through required testing, labeling, and child-proof packaging. 

Revenues collected from the legal sale of marijuana will go to support a variety of important public programs. Following decades of research, it’s clear that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, two highly-addictive drugs that are already legal. Like alcohol and tobacco, however, consumption may not be good for your health, but should the government have the right to tell adults what they can put in their own bodies?  I don’t think so!  

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