New Jersey has notoriously been among the most conservative states on marijuana, especially given Republican Governor Chris Christie’s avid stance against adult use legalization. While New Jersey already has a very limited medical marijuana program, Democratic State Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill to legalize weed altogether. The measure would tax and regulate cannabis, allowing adults over 21 to purchase it without a doctor’s recommendation. Home grow would not be allowed.
Scutari said on Monday that he wants to have the legislation ready by spring of next year. That would also be after Christie leaves office, and likely succeeded by front-runner candidate Democrat Phil Murphy, who’s in favor of cannabis legalization.
“The national trend is toward legalization,” Scutari said. “It’s absolutely necessary to save our neighborhoods from drug dealers. And we can use the tax revenue. And people are smoking it anyway.”
However, while Christie’s still in office, any efforts toward marijuana law reform will be drastically hindered. Not only does the governor oppose legalization, but he’s still dubiously supportive of even medical marijuana. New Jersey’s medical marijuana bill was signed into law right before Christie took office, and he’s since blocked efforts to expand the limited program.
Now he’s argued that cannabis legalization could lead to the legalization of other drugs like cocaine and heroin. According to Christie, “crazy liberals” are willing to “poison our kids” for marijuana tax revenue. “They want that blood money? Let them do it,” he said during a conference on drug abuse at the New Jersey Hospital Association in Princeton. “And they will. Let me tell you something — this will be like priority number one come January. I guarantee you, if we have a Democratic governor, it will be priority number one.”
Christie even called out Murphy and Scutari specifically, along with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who also supports legalization. “People like Nick Scutari and Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway,” he said. “Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis.” According to the statistics Christie’s found, teenage weed smokers are ten times more likely to become heroin addicts by the time they’re 24; however, most research has dismissed the gateway theory time and again.
“To try to pull off some kind of a nexus between the opioid and heroin crisis and legalizing pot is ridiculous, misplaced, and unscientific,” Scutari responded. In fact, the opioid crisis is less severe in green states, where there are fewer opioid overdose fatalities. “One thing has nothing to do with the other,” he said. “It’s really an unscientific comment.”