O’Scanlon: ‘Recreational marijuana legalization should be decided by voters’

Insider NJ's Jay Lassiter argues that while cannabis legalization in NJ is a long way away, expunging the records of people unfairly harmed by the war on drugs so that they can more meaningfully contribute to our shared society should be more important to lawmakers right now.

NJ Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver, Monmouth) wants voters to decide if should legalize recreational cannabis. If a bill recreational cannbis comes up, in lame-duck, O’Scanlon’s a NO vote.

“There’s legitimate value to be gained by waiting,” Sen O’Scanlon told InsiderNJ. “We’ll have a lot more info from other states and that’ll make a compelling (referendum) debate in November of 2020.”

To get a referendum on the ballot in NJ, the legislature has to vote on it. If there’s a supermajority, the question goes straight to the ballot. Otherwise the measure must pass with a majority twice and in consecutive sessions. To meet O’Scanlon’s Nov 2020 timetable, this would need to happen ASAP during the nascent lame-duck session.

Ok so what about the 30,000 cannabis arrests in NJ every year?

“We need to move forward with decriminalization immediately,” O’Scanlon told InsiderNJ. “Expungements would need to be part of of the discussion.”

His message for legalization purists?

“The voters aren’t there,” he told InsiderNJ. “We haven’t even seen a draft of the bill!”

Senator O’Scanlon released the following statement:

“It’s time to end the mixed message being sent to the public, the industry, law enforcement and both opponents and supporters of marijuana legalization. We should abandon efforts to move legalization legislation during the lame duck session and firmly commit to sending the question to voters. To be clear, I will be a firm vote against any form of legalization legislation until and unless voters have voted in favor of legalization.”

“My reasoning for taking this position is several fold. First, I believe a commitment was essentially made this past spring, following the debate and failed vote at the time, that this issue would be put to the voters.”

“Second, while I firmly believe in legislative obligation and the value of representative government, there are times and issues where there is substantial value to be gained by permitting, in fact encouraging, voters to weigh in directly. I have come to believe that recreational marijuana legalization is one such issue.”

“Third, the sincere passion, fears, concerns and respectful debate that is still ongoing over this issue makes hastily cobbling together just enough legislative votes to pass it unwise. Additionally, permitting another few months of passionate, public debate and discussion of the issue would be healthy given those sincere passions, concerns and fears.”

“Fourth, New Jersey already has one of the most clinically rigorous medical marijuana programs in the country. Permitting our nascent expansion of this extraordinarily successful program an additional almost-full-year opportunity to establish itself prior to any allowance of adult-use marijuana access will be extremely valuable to our medical program. Further we want to ensure that the industry is operating in good faith and in the best interest of the patients–by increasing supply and access–prior to any increased demands for potential adult use access.”

Fifth, other states that are in the process of moving forward with legalization are providing us with tremendous amounts of new information and evidence about the wisdom, dangers, or folly, of this policy. Gaining another year of this evidence will dramatically help strengthen the legitimacy of truly valid arguments in this debate.”

“Lastly, it is imperative that we move forward immediately with legislation that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. The social justice implications of this widely-supported aspect of cannabis policy are irrefutable. This area of policy shouldn’t wait a year. Getting to clarity on the details of this mission should be our immediate focus and enactment of the policy a top priority.”

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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

        Don’t be fooled by marijuana “decriminalization” because citizens are still going to be treated like common criminals for marijuana under it. This is what desperate anti-marijuana prohibitionist types will now settle for.

        They also fail to mention the additional huge cost of court costs which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars on top of the relatively small ticket/fine.

        If you fail to pay these very expensive and often unaffordable court costs you will be in “the system” as a criminal. With a warrant out for your arrest and incarceration.

        This policy still allows marijuana to be used as a tool and probable cause by law enforcement to investigate marijuana consumers for no other reason other than even the detection of the scent of marijuana by law enforcement and they will confiscate your marijuana.

        Overall, decriminalization through it’s hidden, super expensive court costs and mandatory summons to appear in court, combined with the allowance of marijuana to still be used by law enforcement as a tool and probable cause still allows marijuana to be an ordinary. otherwise law abiding citizen’s introduction into the criminal justice system.

        No thanks! If this so called policy of marijuana “decriminalization” truly means marijuana is no longer supposed to be a “crime”, then why are marijuana consumers still going to be treated like criminals under it?

        Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws as the drinkers of alcohol. Plain and simple!

        Citizens will STILL be forced to the dangerous black market and a shady illegal street drug dealer to purchase their marijuana. Getting caught buying it is STILL a crime they will arrest and jail you for. Then, they will also most likely try to FORCE you to either mandatory community service and/or rehab, and if you don’t comply, guess what? JAILTIME!

        Also, we will still be wasting our tax dollars sending police around to write summons to marijuana users and wasting police manpower and resources.

        Instead of allowing our police the time, manpower and resources to protect us all from real, dangerous criminals who actually commit crimes with victims and pose a real threat to society.

        Why else do you think some politicians are so EAGER to “decriminalize”, instead of LEGALIZE?

        Don’t Let’em Fool Us!!!

        If you can’t purchase it legally and police will confiscate it, then it isn’t legal.

        If you have to fear a monetary fine/ticket which if you don’t pay and/or show up in court to handle, you then become a criminal with a warrant out for your arrest, and when convicted (yes convicted, as in crime.) you will then be forced into free manual labor and/or forced drug rehabilitation to be used as another statistic prohibitionists love to flaunt about supposed “marijuana addicts”, then….No, it’s not legal!

        This will not suffice! Getting caught purchasing marijuana is still considered a serious “drug deal” and you will be prosecuted for it!

        DEMAND FULL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION NATIONWIDE!

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