On Monday, November 16th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the first-ever hearing on marijuana legalization in New Jersey. The committee will hear invited testimony on how New Jersey could legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol for adults and how this has worked in the other states that have legalized marijuana. Senator Nicholas Scutari, chair of the committee, has also introduced legislation to legalize marijuana.
Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of Drug Policy Alliance says, “The Drug Policy Alliance supports taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults and thanks the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for taking testimony on this issue. The criminalization of marijuana is costly, unfair and compromises public safety. New Jersey wastes more than $125 million dollars a year arresting people for marijuana possession. This absurd policy criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens and wastes law enforcement resources that would be better spent on serious public safety issues.”
More than 20,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey every year. A conviction for marijuana possession can have tragic long-term consequences. The resulting criminal record subjects a person to a system of legal discrimination that can last a lifetime and make it difficult or impossible to secure employment, housing, student loans or even a driver’s license. Even without a conviction, the consequences of an arrest can include untold stigma and humiliation, the financial burden of hiring a lawyer and lost hours at work or school.
Marijuana laws have a disparate racial impact. Blacks are almost three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites even though both races use marijuana at the same rates.
The solution is to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol for adults. Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington) and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana. New Jersey should remove marjuana from the illegal market and take responsibility for safe and effective control and regulation. A majority of New Jersey residents support legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults. Legalization will generate tax revenue to fund transportation infrastructure upgrades, drug and alcohol abuse programs and a variety of health initiatives. Such revenue can also be used for education and reinvestment in the communities most negatively impacted by our current marijauna laws.
Legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana will create a safe and controlled system with social and economic benefits. Legalizing and regulating marijuana will generate millions of dollars in revenue to fund projects that help all New Jersey residents. It will also create jobs in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Otherwise law-abiding adults will no longer be turned into criminals and racial disparities in arrests will be reduced. Law enforcement resources will be freed to focus on serious public safety issues.