Plenty of folks don’t support marijuana legalization in NJ still in 2019 and that includes quite a few lawmakers from Trenton. But to qualify for this list, the who’s who of prohibition fetishists, you must be emphatically driven to preserve the War on Drugs status quo.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Trenton’s pantheon of marijuana legalization opponents.
Sure, he’s been out of office for a while, but Chris Christie brought an uncommon zeal to opposing legalization of weed, a lasting burden on the 45,000 people in NJ’s medical cannabis program. If you’ve ever had to drive 2 ½ hours (both ways) just to get your medicine, you’ve had 5 whole hours to contemplate Christie’s enduring influence over the marijuana debate. If you’ve ever paid way too much for medical marijuana, you’re intimately familiar with Chris Christie’s powerful, enduring anti-pot legacy. If you’ve ever paid sales tax on your medicine, you know firsthand that when a republican says he thinks government is too big, he might be fixin’ to make it bigger.
Christie wanted to be president and his “tough on crime/Just say no” persona was part of that pitch. But that gambit failed along with his White House ambitions. Chris Christie left office last year with the lowest approval rating in the history of New Jersey politics, no surprise to the growing number of NJ residents who support drug reform.
NJ Senator Ronald Rice, Sr
Ron Rice Sr, the venerable Senator from Newark has a flawless, peerless, impeccable voting record against medical and recreational marijuana. And no one’s done it longer. He’s made countless bold, curious, provocative claims about weed over the years, but he went full-blown when he shared his fears about “sex toy oils with marijuana” and was met with near-universal derision.
Mary Pat Angelini
The affable former Assemblywoman from Monmouth County (pictured with the author above) campaigned hard on her “Just Say No” record in the New Jersey legislature, And for 4 terms, voters bought in. Ms Angelini delighted in voting down pretty much any- and every drug reform bill that came before her including multiple votes to deny sick people medical marijuana. (She even voted against needle exchange, saying it encourages heroin use. Which is like saying seatbelts encourage car wrecks. But I digress.) There was an influential place for Ms Angelini’s prohibition-oriented voting record during the Chris Christie era. But voters eventually soured on that send her packing in November of 2015.
But Ms. Angelini still influences the marijuana legalization debate with frequent widely-circulated Op Eds and as a board member of NJ RAMP, a group devoted to cannabis prohibition.
NJ Senator Mike Doherty
NJ Senator Mike Doherty (R-Point Pleasant) voted against medical marijuana, then spent a decade fighting its implementation.
When Senator Doherty voted against the adult use marijuana bill on the committee on 3/18/19, he cemented his place in the “just say no” hall of fame.
“Evil is involved here,” Doherty said at the time. “It’s a Gateway Drug. Smoking marijuana is bad. This is a deal with the devil. We’ll be a worse off society. (Legalizing marijuana) is adding to the pile of ills affecting society–alcohol, opioids, father-less-ness, pornography, pedophilia. Society is falling apart. Society will be extinct.”
But Mike Doherty’s brand of retrograde hysteria isn’t as ominous as it used to be. Because when the average NJ voter hears Doherty saying that marijuana legalization is a deal with the devil and then something about pedophilia, they’re increasingly running in the opposite direction.
Assemblymen Hal Wirths & Parker Space
Republican back-bencher Hal Wirths feels very strongly that marijuana reform is not a social justice matter and he regularly impugns the motives of people (like myself) who legitimately see injustice in the 32,000 pot arrests in New Jersey every year.
Wirth’s running mate Parker Space (literally) relies on the the ghost of Nancy Reagan, plus testimony from one comically confused constituent to guide his views on marijuana legalization.
“Like what Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no,'” Space said during his last campaign.
“A constituent of mine told me the story of his visit to Boulder, CO, and how disgusting he found it — people lying in the walkable town center, stoned, dirty and like zombies that you practically had to walk over. What’s worse is that some actually had their children with them. He told me not to let this happen to Sussex County,” Assemblyman Space said.
First of all, if you need to drag a beautiful town like Boulder Colorado to make your point you’ve already lost the debate.
But it gets better.
Not long after, then-Congressman Jared Polis replied via Twitter, and later an open letter: “It sounds like your constituent might have visited our iconic Pearl Street Mall during our Halloween ‘Mall Crawl,’ which is the only time that zombies are found in our central downtown.”
So basically, NJ Assemblyman Parker Space makes marijuana legalization policy based off some dude from Sussex County who went to Boulder during Halloween and got really confused.
Polis, who’s now Colorado’s governor, then outlined of the benefits of marijuana legalization:
“Incidentally, I should add that our growing, legal marijuana industry has created 23,000 jobs, generated $200 million in tax revenue, and dealt a blow to criminal cartels in Colorado. And our mall? More beautiful and family friendly than ever!”
Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster. Maybe in the future he’ll win awards for his cannabis infused sex toy oil.