Discussions about the benefits of legalizing marijuana tend to turn on revenue benefits to the state — not hard to understand in economically challenged New Jersey. Some advocates also point to ending the pot prohibition as a tool of social justice. Both ideas are on the front burner again at New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR), thanks to the bill introduced yesterday by state Senator Nicholas Scutari that would let residents 21 and older use marijuana, which would be taxed and regulated by the state.
Revenue estimates from a homegrown grass industry tend to hover around $300 million, mostly the result of taxes and regulation.
But there’s another aspect to legalization that may not be as apparent as facts and figures.
“The war on marijuana is an instrument of racial discrimination, and the inequalities it perpetuates have only gotten worse over time,” said R. Todd Edwards, political action director of the NAACP NJ State Conference. “It’s time to end these racial disparities in arrests and imprisonment … Possession is one of the most common reasons that people in New Jersey are serving time in our jails, and it’s one of the most significant sources of racial disparities in our criminal justice system.”
Unfortunately, given that Gov. Chris Christie views marijuana as a “gateway drug,” the Scutari legislation or similar bills have no chance of being enacted before 2018.
The NJUMR is a coalition of civil rights groups, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other thought leaders.