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.”