Source: Hudson Reporter
Proponents and opponents came together in Jersey City for the first of a planned series of hearings across the state to discuss the possible legalization of marijuana in New Jersey.
Led by State Sen. Ronald Rice, chair of the N.J. Legislative Black Caucus, the hearing included State Senators Sandra Cunningham and Nina Gill, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, and others.
“I’m familiar with the issue, because Montclair, which I represent, was one of the first communities in the state to provide medical marijuana,” Gill said.
Last year, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy said he supported legalization, something that has been done in a number of other states including Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and recently, California.
But a number of municipalities and counties have announced that they will not allow legalized marijuana, posing serious legal hurdles and complicating the social justice aspect of a proposed bill currently working its way through the state legislature.
While the majority of those who attended to hearing in Jersey City at the Cityline Church appeared to support legalization, the hearing had a number of opponents, including a former Ocean County prosecutor whose son had died as direct impact of marijuana use. Members of Smart Approach to Marijuana (SAM) also testified in opposition, presenting their case as to why the state should delay legalizing marijuana until more is known.
Marijuana is considered illegal by the federal government, in the same class as heroin, cocaine, and LSD. So if New Jersey was to legalize marijuana, no one living in a federally-subsidized building could legally use the drug in their home.
People using marijuana would be prohibited from obtaining certain jobs such as many government jobs on a federal, state maybe even local level. Currently, people who work with kids as coaches, teachers, and similar jobs are drug tested, and would be banned from those jobs as well. Many companies institute drug tests that could prohibit employment.
Marijuana could follow the legal guidelines that govern alcohol use. Public consumption will likely be banned, requiring people to go to bar-like accommodations such as smoke lounges. Rice also noted the legal risk people might face if they are transporting marijuana legally purchased in one community through a community where it is not legal.
New Jersey has a number of options. It could legalize marijuana, decriminalize it, or do nothing at all and leave the current system in place.