Legalizing marijuana could open a huge source of revenue for the state, but as with any drug, it could also bring serious health consequences, according to professors from various departments at Rutgers University.
New Jersey would likely see a boost to the economy particularly in urban areas, said Lyneir Richardson, executive director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers Business School.
“My research leads me to believe that legalized cannabis will quickly be a $40 billion-dollar-plus industry. And the local economic impact will be huge,” Richardson said. “Entrepreneurs – particularly entrepreneurs of color – can be expected to build businesses on the leading edge of this growth sector, strengthening inner-city neighborhoods,” he said.
Polls show that the majority of residents favor the legalization, according to Ashley Koning, director of the university’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “New Jerseyans are fully on board with completely legalizing the possession and personal use of recreational marijuana – 58 percent to 37 percent, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in October.” Yet concerns remain over how marijuana would be used or abused.
There are reportedly nearly 60 municipalities in the state that passed a ban or opposition to the drug.
Although pot is the lesser of two evils when compared with opioids, there are still risks, said Lewis Nelson, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “There are both acute and long-term effects, both medical and psychological, that accrue from the use of cannabis, and while the upside of tax revenue and social justice are hard to ignore, the social and individual consequences, and possibility of injury and addiction, should not be ignored either,” Nelson said.
Safety is always an issue when a new drug is introduced to the market and marijuana would not be an exception, said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center.
“Poison control centers have consistently reported an increase in poison exposures from that drug in adults and children alike. Many of these exposures arise from edible marijuana products, which may look enticing to young children and cause serious consequences,” Calello said.
Any laws legalizing the cannabis, she said, should include requirements for warning labels on packaging.