New Jersey Is Still Pushing To Legalize Marijuana
In the week leading up to the November 3 presidential election, a small contingent of New Jersey voters is working to block a ballot measure in a state that could legalize recreational marijuana use. Neuroscientist Melissa Tasse, from New Jersey, has studied the link between addiction and the brains of adolescents and concluded that marijuana can be an entry-level drug that leads to more dangerous substances. It starts with kids starting smoking, drinking and using marijuana, "said Tassos, who raises a teenage daughter in Summit, New York, and her husband in Jersey City. And then it leads to changes in the brain and some people become addicted to heroin later in life.
She worries that the state legalization of recreational cannabis will increase the use of marijuana for young people. If the measure comes into force, it will restrict cannabis use to adults 21 years and older. Cupid fears that marijuana products like gummy bears and their high-tech packaging will attract younger consumers and change the community for the worse if the measures take effect.
The Journal of Adolescent Health found that the number of hospitalizations related to marijuana use among young people ages 13 to 21 rose from 161 in 2005 to 777 in 2015 after legal marijuana sales began in the state. Polls conducted in New Jersey on the issue show that voters prefer cannabis as a legal recreational drug, even though it has been legal for decades for use as a medical treatment. If the law is passed, the New York State Supreme Court will have to draft a bill that sets rules for the way the industry operates, including the level of taxation and whether people with warrants in connection with past marijuana crimes should be licensed to legally sell.
The language of the referendum does not limit the forms in which cannabis can be sold, and some say edible and sweet things are allowed under the language. Gregg Edwards, who performed bare-bones surgery bearing the slogan "Don't let NJ go Pot," said he doesn't think it's good that the vote doesn't restrict the use of THC, the main chemical compound found in cannabis that provides high levels of value.
The "No to Pot NJ" campaign has been overshadowed by the cannabis industry, which has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state to make cannabis legal. Recent fundraising filings show that the New Jersey Building Trades Council, one of the largest cannabis companies in the country, has raised just over $1 million.
The $800,000 came from The Scotts Company, which is known for its high-quality cannabis products such as cannabis oil and cannabis extracts. The company's founder and CEO, Andrew Scott, also sells his products to the marijuana industry and other cannabis companies.
Edwards' group has so far raised $10,000, according to the State Department's most recent campaign finance report.
New Jersey is a strategic location for cannabis sales, industry observers say, and its 9 million residents offer more customers. It could also create a domino effect, encouraging surrounding states to legalize and use tax revenues. Marijuana Business Daily predicts the industry could generate up to $1.5 billion in annual revenue for the state by 2024. The industry is trying to make money and ignores the fact that young people are admitted to the hospital after trying to use marijuana.
Nathan, the father of a pubescent child, agrees that marijuana can have a negative effect on the developing brain. He is a psychiatrist and a member of NJCan2020 and the New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Rights Reform.
The best deterrent, he said, is the information: "The more you know about it, the better and the more people you need to educate.
Meanwhile, Edwards is struggling to spread the "no to pot NJ" message: "We are disproportionately derailing the lives of black citizens by unilaterally enforcing drug laws. Black New Jersey residents are twice as likely as white residents to be arrested, though marijuana use rates are similar in both groups. Nathan noted that banning marijuana did not stop teenagers from using it. "If you want to stop drug use, you can't do that by banning it.
He said the campaign had been difficult because the pandemic had limited access to voters. Virtual messaging has since been suspended, according to the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.
He pointed out that state legislators tried to pass a bill legalizing marijuana and failed in March 2019. He said he was not convinced the polls reflected voters' position, but they were "very close" to a majority.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year promised to legalize recreational cannabis in the state to boost revenue. Edwards said lawmakers who have never voted on legalizing weed have no voice because of the issue's popularity, but there are clearly some lawmakers who think it's not popular. When it became clear that too many senators were behind the fence or vehemently opposed to legalization, they leaked the decision to the media.
Edwards hopes voters recognize the need for a constitutional amendment that would allow recreational weed legalization to be equated with other rights. He promised it last year, but it has still not happened and he is worried about the future of the issue.