Marijuana dominated the discussion in Trenton yesterday (Monday) as lawmakers advanced legislation that would legalize, tax, and regulate recreational cannabis in NJ. The debate elicited a lot of opinions during the hours long debate that preceded the vote.
Below in a smattering of reactions, from all sides, which captures the spirit of yesterday’s historic debate.
“This is still being sold under the auspices of social justice, but it’s about money. It’s not about social justice. It’s about money for white investors.” Senator Ron Rice, ardent prohibitionist, via NJ.com
“We all know who’s getting the licenses, and it’s not people like me — who have sold marijuana. We’re not going anywhere, so what are you going to do with us,” Forchion said. “I don’t want to get arrested again. I don’t want to go to jail again. But the day you pass this bill, I will be emboldened to sell marijuana (on the black market) — just like the white guys.” -Ed Forchion, aka NJWEEDMAN, who despite wanting to end cannabis prohibition, echoed Sen Rice’s concerns about who the gatekeeper will be.
“There is a cannabis arrest once every forty-eight seconds in America. Prohibition has failed to reduce access to and the use of cannabis, while wasting billions of dollars nationally and resulting in hundreds of thousands of racially skewed arrests each year. While I am concerned about the impact on communities, and that needs to be very closely watched and monitored, I believe that the time has come to advance this measure forward.” —Senator Troy Singleton, in an email to InsiderNJ
“As a woman in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, I take this subject very seriously. It’s what motivated me to become a drug policy reform advocate in the first place. The bill isn’t perfect but now we have the opportunity to continue dialogue to sharpen it. The War on Drugs has been an unequivocal failure. Continuing to lock up folks isn’t the answer – especially when our state’s racial disparities are the greatest in the country! We still have work to do. But we are headed in the right direction. It’s time to move this legislation forward. I have faith in our legislators and will continue to work with them to see that New Jersey gets it right!” —Moira Nelson, Director of Drug Policy at Action Together NJ, in an email to InsiderNJ.
“I’m not for having this open-ended definition of medical marijuana. We really only can call something medicine if it’s been verified to be helpful and its side effects are not so egregious that it defeats the whole benefit. We do need to test that. We do have a new product on the market which addresses the seizure disorders that really takes the CBD component and utilizes it. “I don’t know why they have to go through the FDA and no one else does. So, I think it really begs the question: Why do people wrap this thing up in the definition of medical when it really is a Trojan horse for them. It really jeopardizes the overall public health.” -Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy to ROI-NJ.
“I became involved in this issue because I believed if we were going to legalize cannabis, like other progressive states before us in this country, that we have not just the opportunity, but the responsibility to address the inequalities and injustices of the past with a determined focus on social justice measures that will positively impact so many of our friends and neighbors. I’m proud of the measures we’ve included in this bill and that’s why I sponsored this legislation. A criminal marijuana charge has a detrimental effect on an individual’s opportunity to access higher education, gainful employment, and housing. Many think that an expungement is a court record but it’s much more than that. It’s a court issue that impacts all of the partners in the criminal justice system. This bill is an opportunity to do real good for the people of New Jersey.” — Annette Quijano, Assembly Judiciary Chair, in a statement provided to InsiderNJ.
“Today is an historic day for many who have been fighting for too long against the absurdities of cannabis prohibition. Sadly, there are still many erroneous stereotypes and false fears that persist to date as evidenced by the opposition testimony we heard today. No matter. This is happening and while it has taken longer than most would like, better to do it right than quick!” Bill Caruso, cannabis advocate/Archer Lawyer.
“The cost of cannabis prohibition can be measured in both dollars and lives. New Jersey taxpayers have spent nearly $2 billion in the past decade enforcing simple cannabis possession charges. An average of 32,000 people are arrested every year. Simply put, The War on Cannabis has failed. It’s time to take money out of the hands of drug dealers and give to small business operators who create jobs and pay taxes.” — Scott Rudder, President of New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.
“I voted no today despite some of the more hyperbolic statements of those opposed to legalization – not because of them. If the claims of death, destruction and chaos on our roadways and within our communities were true there would be a massive movement within states that have legalized to save themselves and their children from destruction. But we don’t see that. Not one state is reconsidering. That having been said, I still voted no. I did so because there are some heartfelt, genuine concerns of reasonable people that deserve to be addressed prior to our final vote on this issue. Given that, and the complicated, some would say cumbersome, level of regulation in this bill – that we only saw late last week – and my vote today was easy. But no one should take my “no” vote as an acceptance of the more outrageous claims of the opposition. This issue is much more nuanced. Thoughtful people can land on either side.” —Senator Declan O’Scanlon, in a text to InsiderNJ
“I’m always discouraged when I see people so genuinely confused about the bill, reacting with a fear of change, a longing for the status quo that’s unworthy of the nostalgia that they give to it.” Hugh O’Beirne, philosopher poet/President NJ Cannabis Industry Association, in an email to InsiderNJ.