Republican presidential candidate hopeful and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But members of the New Jersey senate held a hearing on Monday about passing a bill that would legalize the drug for both medicinal and recreational use within the state.
As reported by Philly.com, the Democratic-controlled New Jersey Legislature is taking steps towards introducing a law that would allow those over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana, whether or not they have a medical marijuana license. Like the laws passed in other states, the consumption of marijuana in public would still be illegal. The bill was written by Senator Nicholas Scutari, who said on Monday that legalizing, regulating and taxing the would-be billion-dollar marijuana industry would bring the drug out of the black market.
As CBS noted, law enforcement officials, health professionals, clergy and other experts argued for the legalization of marijuana in the state of New Jerssey at the hearing in Trenton. Scutari has admitted that putting everything in place for a regulated marijuana industry will take some time. The bill he wants to pass is also designed to give the state the tax benefits, which have already been realized in states like Colorado.
Governor Christie, however, has been very outspoken about his opposition to legalizing marijuana, as he feels it would be a gateway to abuse of other illicit drugs:
“As a former federal prosecutor, I’ve been the most outspoken person in this race on this issue. I am completely, 100 percent opposed to drug legalization; that’s different than being for treatment.”
While being strongly opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana, Christie is a strong supporter of treatment for drug addicts and some related judicial reforms. He supported the bill that allows some nonviolent drug addicts to receive mandatory drug treatment rather than jail time.
Those like Senator Scutari, who want to legalize the drug, say that it’s an issue of civil liberties. They feel that there is a disproportionate number of black residents being arrested for nonviolent marijuana-related crimes. Christie’s own admission that the war on drugs has failed and that he wants to help the state’s drug abusers seems to be contradicted by the increase in New Jersey residents being arrested for these crimes since Christie has been Governor.
The hearing on Monday was attended mostly by advocates of legalizing marijuana. Senator Scutari said another hearing will be organized to give opponents a chance to make their case as well.
Recreational marijuana has been legalized in four states so far, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska. New Jersey is one of more than 20 states that have already legalized medicinal marijuana. It should be noted that New Jersey currently has the most restrictive laws regarding medicinal marijuana, as each prescribing doctor and prescribed patient must pay a $200 fee to use one of the state’s five dispensaries.
Seemingly far from ready to pass the bill, Senate President Steve Sweeney still has some questions:
“We’re going to have a model to measure from to see what’s good, what’s bad. Is it the right decision? Is it not the right decision? But we’ll have enough information to make an informed decision.”
While some members of the New Jersey senate may feel that Chris Christie’s position is too conservative, as High Times reported, Governor Christie recently signed a law allowing smokeless medicinal marijuana to be administered in schools. Larc School, in southern New Jersey, is officially the first school in the United States to administer the drug for medicinal purposes to students with a prescription.
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