New Jersey wastes more than $125 million dollars a year arresting people for marijuana possession. This absurd policy criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens and wastes law enforcement resources that would be better spent on serious crime and public safety issues.
More than 20,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey every year. A conviction for marijuana possession can have tragic long-term consequences. The resulting criminal record subjects a person to a system of legal discrimination that can last a lifetime and can make it difficult or impossible to secure employment, housing, student loans, or even a driver’s license. Even without a conviction, the consequences of an arrest can include untold stigma and humiliation, the financial burden of hiring a lawyer, and lost hours at work or school.
Marijuana laws have a disparate racial impact. Blacks are almost three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites even though both races use marijuana at the same rates. New Jersey’s unfair and ineffective marijuana laws have also hampered efforts to implement an effective medical marijuana program. After five years, seriously ill patients still can not access the medicine they need to relieve their suffering and improve their quality of life.
Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington) and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana. New Jersey should remove marijuana from the illegal market and take responsibility for safe and effective control and regulation. A majority of New Jersey residents support legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults. Legalization will generate tax revenue to fund transportation infrastructure upgrades, drug and alcohol abuse programs and a variety of health initiatives. Such revenue can also be used for education and reinvestment in the communities most negatively impacted by our current marijuana laws.
New Jersey should pass Senate Bill 1896/Assembly Bill 3094, which would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol for adults. This would make marijuana laws consistent with the values and opinions of New Jersey residents and build on smart and popular reforms across the country.
Legalizing and regulating marijuana will generate millions of dollars in revenue to fund projects that help all New Jersey residents. It will also create jobs in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Otherwise law-abiding adults will no longer be turned into criminals and racial disparities in arrests will be reduced. Law enforcement resources will be freed to focus on serious crime and public safety issues.