Marijuana proponents in New Jersey are pushing back against embattled Gov. Chris Christie, saying the time has come for the Garden State to take a serious look at legalization.
New Jersey already has a medical weed program, but it’s highly limited, and its supporters have long accused Christie of sabotaging it. As it is, the program barely functions, and it’s the most expensive of its kind in the country.
MMJ was signed into law by then-Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, in 2010. But he left office soon after, replaced by Republican Christie, who has taken a strong anti-pot stance ever since.
Though medical weed was already law, Christie did everything in his power to stop it from taking effect. It wasn’t until 2013 that New Jersey had three functioning cannabis dispensaries. And they may not all be in business.
“There are currently three medical marijuana dispensaries but only one is operational,” said Derek Peterson, co-owner of Terra Tech, a commercial agriculture company. “The medical marijuana program has been sabotaged by the Christie administration so we’re waiting for the next governor.”
What’s more, even for those who can get their hands on MMJ, an average ounce costs $469. And that’s not counting tax or the hundreds of dollars in admissions fees patients must pay to join the program.
The program’s restrictions, its costs, and Christie’s attempts at stalling could ultimately do more to help marijuana reform than hurt it. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat, recently introduced legislation to legalize recreational weed.
It’s not clear his proposal has the legs to become law, at least not this time around. But some key lawmakers have indicated tentative support.
“With the New Jersey Legislature being as supportive as they are, the state could be among the first few Northeastern states once we have a new governor in office,” Peterson said.
New Jerseyans may be especially open to the idea of legal weed. They strongly support MMJ, and the benefits to the state could be substantial.
“New Jersey will have a hard time passing up the tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis as well as money saved from not having to prosecute people because of possession,” said Darrin C. Duber-Smith, a professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver. “There’s a lot of savings in not putting people through the justice system of courts, prison and probation, but it would require a change in New Jersey’s current criminal code.”