Legalizing Marijuana Faces Many Roadblocks 

Governor Phil Murphy

Almost everything I ever needed to know about the difficulties in market marijuana I learned from a board game, Feds n’ Heads, torn out of the pages of Playboy magazine in the early 1970s. 

Based on counter-culture comic, The Furry Freak Brothers and the historic capitalist game, Monopoly, Feds ‘n Heads required players to circle a game board seeking to purchase enough marijuana to win. 

Players were faced with numerous obstacles especially from law enforcement that often resulted in a player being sent to jail. And since we generally played the game under the influence, it became a very lesson in the real-world challenges people faced. 

The game came out prior to the passing of the odious Rockefeller Laws that established harsh, mandatory sentences even for minor possession, and the well-meaning, but short-sighted concept of arresting people for minor offences before they committed more serious sometimes violent crimes. This last – which often involved racial profiling – mistakenly assumed that people who wanted to smoke or even deal marijuana would inevitably fall into a life of serious even violent crime. 

Historically marijuana has been the victim of bad press, scary stories about the social and moral impact it had on users. Once consider at gateway drug – the first step towards harder drugs – marijuana has recently received a reprieve.  Part of its bad press came from the fact that to buy marijuana, you were often required to seek out dealers who often also dealt harder drugs.  

But even this is something of an illusion since many marijuana dealers made up a cottage industry, supplementing their income by selling to people they knew at the local bar or even at their workplace. 

Recently some communities like Jersey City have decided to cease prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana or fining people rather than putting them in jail. This is an element of a possible eventual decriminalization – one option that state could embrace if it fails to legalize it as other states have done.  

Even President Donald Trump recently suggested he might support some change in federal policy which still outlaws use and possession. Federal law currently considers marijuana in the same class of drugs as heroin, cocaine and LSD. If New Jersey were to legalize marijuana in the state nobody living in a federal-subsidized building would legally use it in their home. 

With a change of perception of marijuana use, many are looking for significant reforms that would not just merely keep people from going to jail for its use and sale, but to actually generate desperately needed tax income for the state. One very optimistic estimate suggested the state might see as much as $300 million. More recent studies suggest this might be far less. 

Legalizing marijuana became one of the key campaign promises made by Phil Murphy when he ran for governor in 2017, but one that has faced a number of roadblocks. 

But opposition to legalization has been fiercer than many initially expected. While the state Assembly passed the legislation, the state Senate came up three or four votes short. A new move to pass it in the lame duck session later this year would have to budge already determined opponents to change their votes.  

This failure to legalize the use and sale of marijuana, and this could result in a referendum being put on the 2020 ballot. Unfortunately, if voters choose to legalize it, the state will have less control over the industry that emerges as a result. 

Some towns like Jersey City have already altered their zoning laws to anticipate passage of the state legislation to allow cities to control where cannabis can be sold. If a local municipality does not have its own ordinance in place, then the state legislation supersedes it. But it is unclear what regulations would prevail, if the referendum passes. 

Many towns like Secaucus have voted to allow medical marijuana sales, but not recreational. This raises questions about what happens in those towns under the referendum. Would potential cannabis sellers apply for state permits bypassing local restrictions? 

The state legislation also comes with restrictions of its own. Dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, nursery or daycare – an almost impossible regulation for some small towns. Bayonne, for instance, attempted once to set up a similar restriction on where registered pedophiles could live, and found there was no location in the city where they could live. 

The state regulations would also require also provisions for indoor and outdoor consumption areas. Under this legislation, cannabis establishments would likely mirror those that are regulated for sale of alcohol. This also means that anyone under the age of 21 would still be subject to arrest for use or possession. 

Where these establishments are located also become a social issue. Will they be located in primarily poor neighborhoods — most likely populated by people of color? 

Another key issue is what happens to those already convicted and sorting through those cases which involve assorted crimes? 

In hearings held in Jersey City in 2018, state Senator Ronald Rise – chair of the NJ Legislative Black Caucus – raised serious concerns about the need for expungement and the impact on the African American community legalization might have. 

While the state legislature passed legislation – introduced in the senate by Senator Sandra Cunningham – Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed it. Both bills establish a system of Clean Slate Expungements. This means that if an ex-offender is not convicted of a crime for 10 years, he or she could have his or her record prior to that 10 year period expunged. This is the case in both the Cunningham bill and the Murphy CV. Still, the legislation fell under the pen.

Many of those currently incarcerated or with a drug conviction on their record have been convicted for minor offenses under a law that set a range of possession from a few grams to a number of pounds. 

A blanket expungement would mean people convicted for possession and likely sale of large amounts would also go free – an intolerable selling point for legislators in either party seeking reelection in more conservative parts of the state.  

The impact of this standoff has huge implications for Jersey City – which is a designated Impact Zone – under the failed legalizing legislation. The city would be first in line in the state to set up cannabis businesses. 

The sad part for us Feds ‘n Heads fans is that legalization will destroy the cottage industry and will allow corporations to sweep in and take over the market. This is a criticism of one California group that has tried to protect small business operators through by establishing a consortium. Will there be such as group established in New Jersey to help protect small dealers?  

The questions never cease. 

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  • Brian Kelly

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national marijuana policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-marijuana, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

    Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    • Brian Kelly
      • Brian Kelly

        The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

        Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our yearly tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

        The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

        Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

        Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

        The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

        Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

        • Brian Kelly

          In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

          In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

          Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

          People who consume marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

          Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make them out to be. They are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

          Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

          Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

          To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

          There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

          So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

          We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

          Has a marijuana consumer ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force anybody not to either.

          Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon everybody else with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

          Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

          • Brian Kelly

            Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

            Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

            The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

            If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

            Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

            Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

          • Brian Kelly

            Marijuana Consumers Are Not Criminals!

            End the systematically failed both state and federal policies of criminalizing consumers of a natural, relatively benign plant proven to be far safer than perfectly legal, widely accepted alcohol and tobacco.

            End The Federal Prohibition of Marijuana Now!

            Legalize Nationwide! State by state if need be!

            It’s time our country wakes up and learns from our history.

            Prohibition does not prevent people from consuming marijuana. The demand will be there always and therefore marijuana will always be served up to the public regardless of marijuana prohibition laws. The alcohol prohibition era criminal organizations and gangsters such as Al Capone of yesteryear are the Pablo Escobar, El Chapo and drug cartels of today.

            The Temperance Movement didn’t catch on and last in part because it was a dead horse from the start.

            Prohibition only serves to further fuel the vast wealth and corruption, violence and death attributed to the criminal organizations which flourish under it by providing marijuana to meet the continual demand at inflated prices. Just like with alcohol, marijuana prohibition doesn’t work, makes no sense, and costs the tax payers a fortune yearly.

            Legalization creates jobs, improves the economy and let’s us as a nation focus the wasted resources currently used to criminalize citizens over marijuana towards things much more needed and useful.

            This is how freedoms get taken away from The People. First, a small minority doesn’t morally approve of marijuana. Tomorrow, it’s R-Rated movies, certain books and literature and eventually that minority aspires to make every citizen conform to their personal sense of morality through laws which criminalize everything that they personally don’t approve of.

            Tell us something prohibitionists:

            Why do you feel justified in endlessly wasting billions upon billions of our yearly tax dollars continuing to arrest, criminalize, incarcerate, and hand out life long permanent criminal records to otherwise hard-working, tax-paying, adult citizens for choosing to consume marijuana although it is far safer than perfectly legal, widely accepted alcohol?

            Shouldn’t their first and foremost priority be protesting the legality of alcohol if they really aren’t just biased and truly so cornered about other people on what those whom oppose marijuana legalization deem to be a “dangerous drug”?

            Why do the anti-marijuana folk apply such a blatantly obvious unfair double standard to far less dangerous marijuana that they obviously don’t apply equally to far more deadly, dangerous and harmful yet perfectly legal, widely accepted alcohol?

            Legalize Nationwide!

          • Brian Kelly

            “Marijuana is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol”

            “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say”

            “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead By Christopher Ingraham February 23

            Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

            Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.”
            -washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/23/marijuana-may-be-even-safer-than-previously-thought-researchers-say/

            “The report discovered that marijuana is 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Researchers were able to determine this by comparing the lethal doses with the amount of typical use. Through this approach, marijuana had the lowest mortality risk to users out of all the drugs they studied. In fact—because the numbers were crossed with typical daily use—marijuana is the only drug that tested as “low risk.”

            -complex.com/pop-culture/2015/02/scientific-reports-weed-114-safer-alcohol

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