Is Cannabis Legalization on its Way to New Jersey?
After taking a visit to investigate Colorado’s marijuana industry and its impact on Colorado residents, Senator Nicholas Scutari was pleasantly surprised by how the recreational cannabis legalization has positively affected Colorado’s economy, tax revenue and crime rates. He visited Denver, Boulder and Golden, talking to state and police officials as well as cannabis retailers in those areas of Colorado. He then delivered his findings to Statehouse reporters, showing photographs and sharing the information he gathered.

Pushing For Cannabis Legalization in New Jersey
Scutari is now focused on using the information to develop legislation so that New Jersey will be able to implement a cannabis legalization plan that will work best. He said “change is always difficult. Do I see it as an uphill fight? Yeah, it’s an uphill fight. But it’s changing. It’s not as uphill as when I stood here 2 years ago and told you that I wanted to legalize marijuana. We’re in a lot better position now. And I’ll tell you what: I feel a lot more comfortable doing it now that I’ve seen a really good industry.” As more research is done and evidence of the positive economic effects are witnessed, the general public is becoming more open to the idea of legalization.

According to a recent federal health survey, 844,000 New Jersey residents already use marijuana illegally every year. Scutari says, “Yes, there’s marijuana in New Jersey, believe it or not. Here, I bet you could go pretty close to this building. Anybody want to take a walk and see how quickly we can get it?”

Marijuana Healthier Than Current Legal Alternatives in New Jersey
A recent study published in the journal of JAMA Psychiatry, evaluated over 1,000 New Zealand subjects for over 20 years, from before they were 18 until they turned 38. Some of the subjects never became marijuana smokers and others did begin to use marijuana over the course of their life. The study evaluated different users of varying degrees of intensity, some who smoke casually and others who smoked intensely for over 20 years. The users and non-users were evaluated together. All of the biological functions in the body of the subjects were tested and evaluated over the 30 year period, from lung function to brain, cardiovascular, blood and every other system in the body. The conclusion was that the only negative impact on the body was a slightly increased chance of gum disease from the actual carcinogens in the smoke.

The marijuana itself was not found to have any negative side effects on the physical body whatsoever. This means marijuana is not only medicinally beneficial, but it is also physically safer and healthier than both prescription medication and alcohol. It’s important to note, that marijuana may increase the risk of psychosis in some people and long term, intensive use can create a decline in general cognitive functions. Despite this, these risks and side effects are still vastly safer than those associated with prescription medication and alcohol use.

Debunking Other Prohibitionist Arguments
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows it produces a significantly lower risk of accident than alcohol does. Surveys by the health department in states where recreational use is legal show that legalization has no impact on teen use. Senator Scutari observed no public smoking or public display of marijuana during his visit to Colorado. He was informed by state officials that crime is down, there is a decrease in opiate use and addiction, and the suicide rate amongst veterans is down, the most encouraging news of all.

“I Will Never Decriminalize Marijuana in This State”
Despite all this, Gov. Chris Christie, has clearly stated that he will never approve cannabis legalization as long as he is the Governor of New Jersey, stating that “there is no bigger anti-drug person than me. I will never decriminalize marijuana in this state, I will never legalize marijuana in this state, for every minute that I’m governor. It’s a gateway drug, it’s a bad thing, and we shouldn’t be doing it. And we shouldn’t be sending messages to our kids and young adults saying it’s okay. It’s not”

Under Gov. Christie’s time in office, the state did legalize medical marijuana but it is very tightly regulated, allowing those with only the most extreme conditions, such as HIV and cancer to be treated, with many commonly treated conditions such as PTSD being excluded from being eligible. Those who do qualify are only allowed to have 2 ounces a month. Due to the opposition from Gov. Christie, legalization will have to wait until a new Governor enters office in 2018. Scutari plans to use this time to make the best legislation possible.

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