In the movie, “The Hunt for Red October,” a fictional national security advisor is considering a risky plan to assist a rogue Soviet sub commander who wants to defect to America, with his boat.
He turns to Alec Baldwin and offers a political insight for the ages: “Listen, I’m a politician, which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies, I’m stealing their lollipops,” he says. “But it also means I keep my options open.”
If you want to understand the debate over legalizing weed in Trenton, that sums it up well. I don’t mean the part about stealing lollipops, though I can’t rule that out. It’s the part about keeping the options open, letting the other guy risk his neck first.
Only a handful of the 120 legislators have come out in favor of legalizing weed, even though polls show solid public support, and the new governor, Phil Murphy, won decisively in November after campaigning on it aggressively.
So, what’s going on?
Legalizing weed is something new, and big, and controversial. And the bills are still taking shape. At this stage, it’s safer to let the other guy step out of the foxhole first and see if he survives.
“You’re not going to jump out and say you’re in favor of this when you don’t even know what the bill is, and you know you will have people come out against you,” says Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “But you’re going to see the momentum shift.”
State law enforcement officials are training more officers to recognize signs of drugged driving and preparing for other major changes as New Jersey moves toward legalizing marijuana, the state’s attorney general said Tuesday.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, an advocate for legalization, told a Senate committee Tuesday that he expected the availability of recreational marijuana to present “a challenge,” but one his office was prepared to meet.
He said his office and officials at the State Police were meeting with counterparts in states that have already legalized marijuana and upping police training in case New Jersey lawmakers follow through on Murphy’s plans.
Testifying for the first time at his department’s annual hearing in front of the Senate Budget Committee, Grewal said there are already about 400 officers across New Jersey trained as “drug recognition experts,” who are equipped to spot drivers under the influence of substances other than alcohol.
That’s more than any other state aside from California, Grewal said, adding that his office was preparing to train 80 more, prioritizing police departments that currently have none.
Until recently, the only consumer data available on cannabis came through self-reporting surveys mostly conducted, ironically enough, by anti-drug advocacy groups.
The data painted a discouraging picture for any New Jersey business hoping to sell cannabis to women: For example, a 2016 study by Headset found 68 percent of cannabis customers were men.
But as adult-use marijuana spreads throughout North America — it will become legal sometime this summer throughout Canada and is available legally to some 20 million Americans — so has understanding about consumption. In fact, a May 2017 study by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition found that just 53 percent of North American cannabis consumers were male.
That news comes as vindication to Fleurish, the only company in Canada developing cannabis products exclusively for women.
In an exclusive interview with NJ Cannabis Insider, Fleurish’s chief marketing officer, Mary Beth Williamson, opened up about the importance of marketing to women and how New Jersey cannabusinesses might best reach them.
Phil Murphy sees legalized marijuana as a moneymaker for New Jersey, with early estimates saying the state could make around $300 million from taxing weed.
A new poll has found that most New Jersey residents agree with the governor in thinking that legal marijuana would boost the state’s economy. The majority of residents also said they favor legalization.
Monmouth University poll released Thursday found that 60 percent of New Jersey residents think that legalizing marijuana would make money for the state, while just 16 percent said they believe it would hurt the economy. Twenty percent said legalization would have no impact.
“The strongest argument for marijuana legalization may be the bandwagon effect,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “With many other states doing it, most New Jerseyans seem to view such a move as a potential economic boon with a limited downside.”
Colorado made $1.5 billion in marijuana revenue last year, up from nearly $684 million in 2014, the first year of legal weed sales, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Legalization advocates say that New Jersey could make around $1 billion in total cannabis revenue in its first full year of sales, $300 million of which would be tax revenue. Scott Rudder, the president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association, has said that may be a conservative estimate, considering New Jersey has 9 million residents, compared to 5.6 million in Colorado.
The legalization trend, which started in Colorado and Washington in 2014 but has now spread to seven other states plus Washington D.C., appears to have swayed opinions in the Garden State.
When Monmouth first asked in 2014 if residents favored marijuana legalization, less than half were in support. Thursday’s poll found that 59 percent of New Jerseyans now support legalization, while 37 percent are opposed.
That’s a change from a Stockton University poll earlier this year that found 49 percent of residents supported legalization, while 44 percent were opposed.
The Monmouth poll shows that support would be more than enough for marijuana legalization to pass via ballot initiative, but New Jersey is aiming to become the second state to legalize through the Legislature. Vermont was the first to do it, legalizing weed earlier this year.
Despite support for legalization among residents, lawmakers aren’t on the same page. NJ Advance Media has found that current support of marijuana legalization among legislators isn’t enough to pass a bill.
Both the state Senate and the Assembly are considering bills that would allow people at least 21 years of age to possess and use personal amounts of marijuana, while also establishing a commercial industry. Gov. Murphy has said he wants such a bill passed by the end of the year.
And while residents agree that marijuana would make money for the state, they’re divided on the impact of legalization on drug crimes.
Monmouth found that 32 percent of people said that legal weed would cause a spike in other drug crimes, while 26 percent said it would reduce such crimes. Another 39 percent said legalization would have no impact.
Our nation controls potentially dangerous drugs in a variety of ways, either through direct regulation, as with alcohol and tobacco, or by placing them on particular lists, also called schedules.
The government’s “Schedule I” designation is the most restrictive classification for controlled substances, reserved for the most dangerous, most addictive drugs with no medical value. Heroin and PCP are Schedule I drugs, and despite an overwhelming body of scientific evidence supporting its medical value and safety, so is marijuana.
Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug is the result of politics and ignorance rather than science. In the coming weeks and months, New Jersey has a historic opportunity to become one of the first states to actively “deschedule” this oft-maligned and misunderstood plant.
Last year, Judge Michael Guadagno ruled that the state must reconsider the Schedule I status of cannabis in New Jersey. This decision was referred to the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which oversees the New Jersey Drug Control Unit (DCU). The DCA and DCU have decision-making authority over the scheduling of drugs in New Jersey, and they are now free to reschedule or even deschedule marijuana.
The pot industry panicked when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the government’s hands-off policy on weed. Today, it can breathe a bit easier as former Republican House Speaker John Boehner joins the advisory board of U.S. cannabis producer Acreage Holdings.
“It is difficult to overstate the impact of this monumental event for the U.S. cannabis sector,” Vahan Ajamian, analyst at Beacon Securities Ltd., wrote in a note Wednesday.
The announcement that Boehner and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld will advise Acreage, a private company, “should send shockwaves throughout the industry and act as a positive catalyst for the sector as a whole,” Ajamian said.
Boehner’s move marks a fundamental shift for a man who said nine years ago he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization, and indicates that pot is increasingly supported by the American establishment even if the Attorney General still believes “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
New Jersey residents are divided over legalizing marijuana, one of Gov. Phil Murphy‘s major campaign promises and priorities for the coming year.
A Stockton University poll released Wednesday found 49 percent of New Jerseyans said they were on board with expanding marijuana sales to adults 21 and older, while 44 percent opposed it and 5 percent said they were undecided.
“These poll results suggest there is not a consensus in New Jersey on whether marijuana should be made legal,” said Michael W. Klein, interim executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton.
Nearly one in four pro-pot people said they were persuaded by the potential tax revenue it would generate, while 22 percent said marijuana is safer than alcohol, and 11 percent said it was safer than tobacco and other cigarettes. Another 11 percent say they favored legalization because it would reduce law enforcement or prison costs, according to the poll.
One in four people said they would try pot for the first time or continue using it if it was legalized.
More than half of the opponents said they feared legalizing pot would cause health problems and create more addicts. Nearly one-quarter said they worried it would provide a gateway to harder drugs, the poll said.
Murphy’s hope to sign a law legalizing weed has hit a snag, as some state senators — including some fellow Democrats — have informally said they will vote no. Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, has not yet scheduled any hearings on his bill to change the law.
On another big priority for Murphy, nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, support his hike taxes on New Jersey’s millionaires, according to the poll. A total of 29 percent are against it and 3 percent are unsure.
The move would give the state about $765 million in new revenue.
State and federal law declared marijuana as dangerous as LSD and heroin nearly 50 years ago.
But a recent state court decision said it’s time New Jersey revisit that decision, as the acceptance of cannabis as medicine rapidly grows.
And New Jersey’s top cop wants to hear from you on this subject.
Later this month, the state Attorney General’s Office will host four public hearings seeking input as to whether marijuana should remain a “schedule 1” drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medicinal value.
Scrapping this designation for pot would not lead to legalizing or decriminalizing the drug’s use, according to a statement from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office. But it could reduce the severity of criminal penalties, or other ways it is regulated.
The hearings are a direct result of a state Appellate Court ruling in October that concluded the Division of Consumer Affairs had the authority to re-classify marijuana from the “schedule 1” category of the most harmful of drugs.
“Medical benefits from the use of marijuana not known in 1971, when the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act became effective…and impediments to its lawful use as a result of its Schedule 1 classification, are abundant and glaringly apparent now,” according to the opinion by Judge Michael Guadagno.