Sun Editorial: What would come of marijuana legalization?

Sun Editorial: What would come of marijuana legalization?

Sun

The taboo that hovered over marijuana for years is rapidly evaporating into a puff of white smoke. Gone are the “Reefer Madness” days with the belief that marijuana does significant harm to a person’s body. Gone, too, seems to be the belief that marijuana is a “gateway” to more serious drugs.

Across the country, marijuana laws have loosened — from legal medical marijuana in states such as New Jersey to the decriminalization of it in Philadelphia to the full legalization of it for recreational use in states such as Colorado.

Pot is now more of a socially-accepted practice, and it’s becoming a big business — one that advocates for its legalization in New Jersey say could reap $300 million in sales tax revenue per year.

A joint report released by the New Jersey United Marijuana Reform and New Jersey Policy Perspective said almost 370,000 people in New Jersey 21 and older use marijuana illegally on a monthly basis, according to federal data. The consumption of 2.53 million ounces of weed a year, at the street price of $343 per ounce, nets about $869 million in sales.

The report estimates that if New Jersey were to legalize pot, control its sale like that of alcohol and tax it at 25 percent, that could result in quite the boost to the state’s economy.

Representatives from the group and other weed advocates say it’s time for the full legalization. Gov. Christie has said for a long time that he will not be the governor to sign such a bill into law, but he leaves office after next year.

Starting in 2018, then, it’s at least a possibility that legalized marijuana for recreational use will come up for a vote in the Legislature.

We’re glad that discussion is most likely two years away, because we don’t feel there’s enough solid information on the effects of legalized marijuana to say the money is worth it.

At the forefront of this lack of information, for us, is the absence of clear knowledge of the effect of legalizing pot on impaired driving. Colorado, for example, handles “stoned driving” as a DUI, no different than being under the influence of alcohol. But there are no field tests to see whether a driver is stoned, and blood tests only say the pot was in a person’s system recently, not necessarily at the time he or she was driving.

There are plenty of other concerns, too, such as the long-term effects of prolonged use of marijuana, whether it’s something we should be promoting and whether we’re legalizing it just for the windfall of cash.

There’s a lot to think about, a lot to study and a lot to discuss.

We’re just glad we won’t have to do that soon.