The states of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in 2012. Could New Jersey be next?
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari is hoping that it will. This week, he is scheduled to formally present a bill that would legalize marijuana in the state and tax it heavily. His bill would be modeled after those in Washington and Colorado, which earned $2 million in the first month of sales last year.
Scutari’s bill plans to tax and regulate marijuana much like alcohol, and he estimates that New Jersey could earn $100 million per year in revenue from weed tax.
“Anybody that looks at the facts knows that the war on marijuana has been a miserable failure,” Scutari said in a press release. “We’re not delusional about how simple the effort would be, but I think from a standpoint of moving this state and this country forward on its archaic drug laws, I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
From a purely financial perspective, legalizing marijuana makes sense. While $100 million may seem like an inflated number, it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility. New Jersey had 2 million more residents than Washington as of the 2010 Census and 3.7 million more than Colorado.
Much like alcohol consumption and gambling, if people are going to partake in the practice of smoking marijuana, why not reap the benefits of taxing the substance — while at the same time avoiding the cost of policing against it?
From an operational standpoint, New Jersey has two other states to model its plan after, plus many other states in the U.S. that have decriminalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use. The Garden State has also already legalized its use for medical purposes.
People are also behind its legalization. Lake Research Partners released a poll last year that said 59 percent of Jersey voters would support a bill such as this, and an October Gallup poll said 58 percent of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.
But then, of course, comes the curveball — emotion, morality and example.
Just because people do it doesn’t make it right. And just because states can legalize and tax marijuana doesn’t mean they should.
What example does legalizing marijuana set for our children? How far will we go just to make, or save, a buck? Or are we just being too prudish about this weed thing?