Even before the pandemic, New Jersey was in crisis, with huge government debt, a sluggish economy and high taxes driving out firms and residents.
Amid these challenges, Jersey’s leaders have decided that legalizing marijuana — with all the risks and uncertainties it involves — should be a top priority. But few of the benefits that supporters claim the Garden State will reap from legalizing recreational pot have materialized in other states to the extent advocates promise; bad outcomes, from rising crime to a growing black market, are clearly apparent.
Worse, health officials have been warning for months about the dangers of smoking — including smoking pot — in a world wracked by a respiratory virus.
Key Jersey Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy, have pushed to legalize recreational pot for three years. Resistance has come from some minority legislators worried about the impact of legal pot. State Sen. Ron Rice from Newark, a former cop, and a coalition of church leaders point out that several dozen mostly suburban communities across New Jersey have already voted against allowing pot sales in their towns.
Thus, the legal trade would likely be concentrated mostly in urban settings. Rice has instead proposed decriminalizing pot so that users don’t get prosecuted.
Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images