Senate Republican Whip Joe Pennacchio (R-26) today condemned the mad dash to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, citing the drastic increase in weed-related traffic fatalities in states that have enacted full legalization.
In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic fatalities rose 48-percent since the state legalized the drug in 2014. Pennacchio also noted that many police departments in New Jersey – the most densely populated state in the nation – do not have enough resources or accurate tools to spot and effectively prosecute stoned drivers.
“Governor-elect Murphy sees a $300 million tax revenue windfall. I see a mass of heartache and trouble,” Senator Pennacchio said. “New Jersey’s roadways are extremely congested and we don’t have a full-proof weed sobriety test. A mad dash to legalization, without taking the time to examine the consequences, is a recipe for disaster.”
Governor-elect Murphy promised New Jersey voters that he would legalize marijuana for recreational use within the first 100 days of his administration. Officials have noted that years after legalization, states like Colorado are still struggling to address related traffic safety concerns. Studies have shown that unlike alcohol, cannabis can stay in a person’s system for days. Pennacchio questioned how authorities would determine an acceptable level for safe driving.
Multiple reports have shown that it is much more difficult and much more expensive to spot, test and effectively prosecute people who drive while under the influence of marijuana. If full legalization is enacted, New Jersey police departments would likely need to increase the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) on their taxpayer-funded payroll. However, DRE officers’ observations are still subjective. Contested cases could lead to a backlog in municipal courts and an increase in the need for costly toxicology reports to close each case. Pennacchio also expressed concerns regarding how the state would evaluate law enforcement officials charged with protecting the public from impaired drivers.
“The reality is that legalizing weed won’t solve New Jersey’s affordability crisis, especially when you consider how much money we are going to have to spend just to make sure law enforcement officials have the resources to handle a massive increase in drugged driving,” Senator Pennacchio said. “Governor-elect Murphy will be putting the lives of New Jersey citizens at risk, just so he can call himself an ‘activist governor.’ I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to put the brakes on legalization before it’s too late.”
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