RICE ISSUES STATEMENT ON MARIJUANA TIE-BAR
“WE CANNOT BE ‘WHACKED’ OR ‘WHIPPED’ INTO VOTING AGAINST OUR CONSCIENCE”
NEWARK: Ronald L. Rice, State Senator of New Jersey’s 28th District, centered in one of the state’s urban areas most vulnerable to the impact of recreational marijuana legalization, today issued the following statement on the ill-conceived strategy of tie-barring three pieces of marijuana legislation:
I once again seek to be the voice of reason in this nonsensical legislative wrangling of pivotal marijuana legislation. I do so because we are at the crossroads of a decision that will change the face of New Jersey forever. We are not talking about Colorado or another state with a vast expanse of open land. Our state has the densest population per square mile in the nation. It sits between two major metropolitan centers, is streaked with high speed turnpikes and parkways and carpeted with urban areas and their suburbs where families could be devastated by irresponsible recreational marijuana laws.
The wrangling for legislative votes is the result of a strategic manipulation of three separate bills concerning marijuana that provide (1) recreational use, (2) medicinal use expansion and (3) expungement of previous criminal records.
Governor Murphy has expressed his deep concern about the wellbeing of patients desperate for the treatment and relief that would be provided by an expansion of our state’s medical marijuana program. He could, with executive authority, expand the program with the flick of a pen and he’s pledged to do so next month with or without the Legislature’s vote.
Meanwhile, he exacerbates the situation by continuing to yield to legislative leaders who have tie-barred the medical expansion bill with the two other pieces of legislation in the hope that this tangle will force passage of the entire bundle into law. It is an attempt to jockey legislators into line by dangling the social justice benefit of expungement to correct the discriminatory practice of targeting minorities, and the humane medical benefit of making marijuana available to more patients, in order to drag the recreational use bill with them into passage.
The hope is that by blurring all three together, wealthy investors and political friends will make a killing in the marijuana industry. Don’t be deceived. If this has to do with social justice, let the expungement bill be passed on its own merit. If it has anything to do with health and healing, let the medical expansion bill be passed on its own merit. If it has to do with raising state revenue, reinvest the $140 million saved on unnecessary marijuana judicial and incarceration costs instead of the mere $60 million recreational marijuana would put in the state budget.
Yesterday’s NJ.com article “Murphy’s medical marijuana pledge hurting effort to legalize weed in N.J., top Democrat says” quotes Senate President Steve Sweeney as saying the governor’s pledge to move forward with expanding medical marijuana is “not helping” his effort to legalize recreational use. The article states that Sweeney “likened the process of whipping votes to the boardwalk game ‘Whac-A-Mole.’”
I want to remind the Senate President that we legislators, who are thoughtfully exercising our knowledge, experience and best judgment on behalf of our constituents, are not “moles” or “pawns” or anything that has to do with a game or game pieces that can be manipulated. We cannot be “whacked” or “whipped” into voting against our conscience, our sense of reason or our oath to uphold our people.
Lastly, as long as images of boardwalks have been conjured, let me also invite readers to imagine visiting our state’s wonderful boardwalks with their families if recreational marijuana is ever legalized. Will we still smell the salt air? Will it ever be the same?