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QUESTIONS ANTICIPATED REVENUE, MARIJUANA TIE-BAR, & SOCIAL JUSTICE IMPACT
IN LETTER TO MURPHY, SWEENEY & COUGHLIN
NEWARK – Senator Ronald L. Rice today released copies of a letter sent to Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-19) addressing what he described as unrealistic budget projections based on a flawed bundle of marijuana legislation that has stalled in the state Legislature.
“I’m sharing this letter with the public out of my sense of responsibility to the welfare of every citizen in New Jersey,” said Rice. “Our state leadership is banking on an unfounded $60 million revenue from the legalization of recreational marijuana. They are projecting that money into next year’s state budget, but have nothing in hand but wishful thinking.”
Rice said he attributes the bill’s collapse to legislators’ fear about legalization’s powerful potential to do mental, physical, economic and judicial harm to residents in New Jersey, warning that those at greatest risk are our state’s people of color, our disadvantaged, our urban communities and the suburban neighborhoods they border. “The only viable, realistic solution for both issues – budget revenue and social justice – is to decriminalize marijuana possession and use. By saving judicial and incarceration costs, decriminalization alone would add $140 million to our state budget,” said the veteran senator from Newark.
Details of the letter, attached in full, include Rice’s concern about social justice issues linked to the legalization of recreational marijuana. The Senator argued against proponents’ claims that legalization would lessen prejudicial treatment of minorities subjected to discriminatory drug arrests and an unfair judicial system, citing reports from California, Colorado, Nevada, Washington State and the District of Columbia where black people are still being arrested three times more than whites for marijuana infringements.
The Senator denounced what he described as leadership’s attempt to meld three pieces of legislation – for recreational marijuana legalization, medical marijuana expansion and marijuana conviction expungement – into one interdependent block. “Under the false pretense of correcting social injustice, this tie-barring, in effect, holds legislators hostage in their ability to vote on each bill separately,” Rice said. “Even worse, while leadership touts expected revenue from the marijuana industry and an unsubstantiated improvement in judicial treatment for people of color, what’s really hanging in the balance is the health and comfort of patients in desperate need of an expanded medical marijuana program. While Trenton is trying to satisfy the economic goals of wealthy investors and political friends, our neighbors are denied medical treatment and relief from pain.”
The Senator closes his letter with the caution that state leadership is “barreling along a collision course where revenues are imagined, social injustice is perpetuated, residents are at risk, and the health and treatment of patients is secondary to the goal of finding an easy fix for the state budget.” He concludes, “We’re better than this and we can work together for common sense legislation that serves all New Jerseyans. Let’s put New Jersey residents before investors!”Rice 3_4_19 Marijuana Legislation Letter to State Leadership