BY JAY LASSITER
CHERRY HILL – New Jersey’s political and business elite come together today in Washington DC for the 80th annual NJ Chamber of Commerce “Walk to Washington”/Congressional Dinner extravaganza. Most attendees arrive via the charted Amtrak train that departs Newark Penn Station, with stops in Trenton, Philly, & Wilmington en route to DC’s Union Station.
“This is the kind of super-networking that helps businesses grow,” said Tom Bracken, CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce describing this year’s #ChamberWalk. “That is why we have been doing it for 80 years. It is New Jersey’s biggest and most prestigious business event of the year.”
So technically, that’s what this trip is about. That, plus much politics and even more politicking. Which should yield loads of catnip for NJ political junkies.
If only I could get a ticket somehow!
Help me, I’m poor!
InsiderNJ is new so first of all, WELCOME!
One day there’ll be a lavish budget to dispatch several correspondents to cover these types of things. For now though, we’re scrappin’ and hustlin’ just to to bring y’all a taste of this smooze-a-polooza through clever, substantive reportage. A ticket to ride the #ChamberWalk train sets you back $699! Even the $299 media rate was over budget.
But if it means hanging out with an Amtrak train full of Garden State potentates then, well, I ain’t too proud to beg.
Enter GoFundMe, a thoroughly modern fundraising site where people like myself beg for money to afford things like pet care and nose jobs. Now we can add #ChamberTrain tickets to that list! Because thanks to 14 of my closest friends (including two GOP legislators who gave anonymously to preserve their reputations) I bundled $435! That’s enough for my train ticket and 1/2 the hotel bill!
The #ChamberTrain winds through four states (+ DC), all governed by different marijuana laws. We begin in New Jersey where, for now at least, only medical cannabis is legal. As we cross the Delaware into North Philadelphia, we might contemplate Philly’s recent decision to decriminalize adult cannabis use. Get caught with pot in Philly, pay a fine, move on.
Shortly after departing Philly’s venerable 30th Street Station, you’ll cross into Pennsylvania proper, where cannabis prohibition reigns. Sure, they passed medical marijuana legislation last spring, but PA remains years away from getting their program up and running. Before you know it, you’re rolling through wee Delaware where medical cannabis is legal and recreational adult use was recently decriminalized. Eight miles later, Maryland beckons. Like PA, Maryland medical users are stuck waiting, in limbo until regulators finally get their act together.
When we finally cross into Northeast Washington DC, you’re finally free to smoke ’em if you got ’em. Recreational cannabis is legal here! But not on Federal property. And definitely not on the Amtrak train!
States in the Northeast tend to be small, especially compared to states like Alaska, Colorado, & California where cannabis is legal. Tiny Delaware – right next door to NJ – perfectly highlights the pitfalls of America’s present state-by-state approach to cannabis reform. Only 2,491 square miles, Delaware’s roughly 1/2 the size of Los Angeles County.
In the Mid-Atlantic, it’s common to cross multiple state lines each and every day as we go about our business. Just like we’re all doing today and tomorrow on this trip.
Cannabis users who travel around the region watch their liberties fade in and out like cell phone reception. That’s bad policy. Most especially for gravely ill people who might benefit from the medial side.
The NJ Chamber of Commerce (and it’s members) are wise to consider the enormous ancillary business opportunities that ending cannabis prohibition brings. Consulting, legal, accounting services. Commercial and industrial real estate. Lighting, security, HVAC, mechanical and electrical engineering, and packaging.
And taco trucks.
If past is prologue, booze will flow like the River Jordan; on board, on arrival, and long into the night.
“On my first Chamber trip I was shocked to learn how many men (on board) had ass tattoos from their alma maters,” Former NJ Senator Ellen Karcher told InsiderNJ, sotto voce. “An hour – and several drinks- into the trip they were all eager to show them off! I swore I would never do another chamber trip. There are only so many decorated wrinkly butts a woman can stomach on a moving train!”
That’s why weddings and funerals notwithstanding, I’m no drinker. But even Teetotalers know where the real party’s gonna be later: at Tim Eustace & Reed Gusciora’s 4th Annual “Walk to Washington” After Party. The fun starts at 10pm at Black Whiskey, a neighborhood watering hole for whiskey lovers and their pot smoking friends. (Pro tip: Find me if you need rolling papers!)
While never attending the actual #ChamberWalk event until this year’s edition, I managed to crash Tim & Reeds party a couple years ago and scarcely remember a thing! That’s how much fun we had! This year will be no exception, especially if even more republicans show up. (Pro tip: when you get there, ask if Ambassador/Gubernatorial hopeful Phil Murphy is running a tab. If so, order yourself a double!)
“I’ll be at the party,” Senator/Gubernatorial hopeful Raymond Lesniak told InsiderNJ. No so Lt Gov Kim Guadagno. She’s back home in New Jersey. “Doing my job,” she said, covering for Governor Christie who’s keynoting tonight’s Congressional dinner. Guadagno is NJGOP’s best shot to keep Drumthwacket from becoming one big socialist valhalla. So she’ll be missed.
Luckily for the Lt. Governor (and the rest of y’all trapped back in NJ) InsiderNJ will be on hand serving up dishy, thoughtful non-stop action!
Jay Lassiter is a long-time New Jersey political gadfly who can’t seems get enough NJ politics. Follow his antics on Twitter @Jay_Lass!