Tuesday’s Pot Potpourri

It was a crazy day in Trenton yesterday with voices on all sides of the cannabis debate sounding off. I heard a lot of dumb stuff yesterday at the State House.

Let’s start with some questions for cannabis proponents. Then, we’ll address some concerns coming from marijuana skeptics.

Expungement

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had questions about the expungement piece yesterday.  (see pic)  It’s not the priority it should be in NJ’s quest to legalize cannabis. For example, there’s still only one expungement judge per county.

Does that sounds like a priority to you?

On the other hand, as Assemblyman Jamel Holley pointed out, “We have an historic piece of legislation here dealing with expungement. We have never had anything this solid. Over 200,000 people will be eligible for expungement with the stroke of a pen.”

They’re both right.

Tax Stamp

Did you know there’s a tracking provision in the recreational bill that empowers the cannabis commission to slap a tax stamp on pretty much everything?  Basically the license-holder pays the state for a tax stamp for each product moved from seed thru to sale. (This, in addition to the $42 sales tax consumers will pay for each ounce of cannabis.)

There’s no fee ceiling and not much statutory guidance in the bill.

I can’t even.

Giving the commission of bureaucrats, inadvertently or no, the unilateral power to tax  cannabis (or anything) is not the way to win GOP votes.

Bill sponsors should amend the bill to include a low ceiling stamp price and make it subject to the same university review the sales tax.

Congratulations and you’re welcome! You just picked up moderate GOP votes in both houses!

(No so) Micro

NJ’s legalization legislation (A4497/A2703) sets aside 25% of micro-licenses for veterans, women, and minority entrepreneurs. Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Micro in this instance is anything under 2,500 square feet which is slightly larger than 1/2 a basketball court. Which is pretty big.

A facility that size will easily cost $4,000,000 from the time of application thru to their grand opening.

Are we being honest to veterans and minorities with pleasing-sounding mandates? Is it appeasement  or cruelty to pretend these “micro” licenses are acquirable for someone coming from an impact area most harmed by the war on drugs? And then telling this Very Special Unicorn who managed to snag a highly-coveted license basically “Good luck bro, now go raise that $4,000,000 without loans using only your Rolodex!”

Umm ok.

Naysayers

Apparently Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter still thinks cannabis is a gateway drug. She’s right if you consider all those (mostly) black and brown people for whom cannabis is a gateway into prison. I don’t know how you can represent Paterson and not be intimately aware of the pain and damage marijuana prohibition has caused.

That old gateway canard was a stark contrast to Sumter’s own district mate Benjie Wimberly.

“An opportunity to expunge a criminal record of a cannabis-related charge could mean the difference between working and not working for an individual,” Wimberly said. “It will be a process, and it will take a little effort but expungement will be possible for many residents.”

Naysayer 2

I think with the safeguards we have in place that I, as a mother, would have no problem with that my children would be exposed to this type of drug.” — Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, after voting to legalize medical cannabis, January 2010

 

This open a whole new doorway for (underage) pot smoking,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, before a vote to legalize recreational cannabis, March 2019

A lot has changed in the last 9 years, including the general acceptance that cannabis prohibition has failed. The Assemblywoman acknowledged a shift in attitude to InsiderNJ.

“Although public opinion and support for the legalization of recreational marijuana has grown, I don’t believe our scientific evidence has,” Vainieri Huttle told InsiderNJ. “Groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] remain in opposition as well as health care professionals pointing to concerns regarding cognitive effects on the brain and the long term implications of marijuana use from a young age.”

I’m worried about the cognitive effects on the brain and the long term implications of watching your mom or dad get locked up for weed. No one wants kids smoking pot. I adore Valerie Huttle and I truly believe she’s doing what she thinks is best for children in NJ.

I hope she knows I’m working to upend prohibition for the very same reason.

 

Jay Lassiter has been smoking pot for a long time. Mostly as a criminal.

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