Over a dozen citizens drawn from medicine, pharmacology, the clergy and the cannabis activist community, including Ed “Lefty” Grimes, testified before members of the State Assembly on Thursday, December 12, 2019 to weigh in on a proposal to legalize cannabis in New Jersey for personal use by those 21 years of age or older.
While the Assembly committee in Trenton moved the following Monday to introduce Assembly Concurrent Resolution 840 as a public referendum on the 2020 state ballot (following protracted debate between the dominant parties), many of the specific concerns—in particular the question of ease of access to medical usage–raised by members of the public remain unaddressed.
While use of cannabis for medical reasons is already legal in New Jersey, the vagueness of the amendment does little to challenge the biased, perceptual limits on such access: during the rally outside the Assembly building on Thursday, tobacco users were permitted to smoke cigarettes in front of the building, while security required cannabis advocates (some using it for relief from such serious conditions as cancer) to smoke across the street.
In addition, language in the 2010 version of the resolution that would have permitted in-home cultivation is now unaccountably absent.
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On the other hand, the committee leadership appeared refreshingly engaged and historically informed, demonstrating both a realistic understanding of how an underground market, rife with potential health/safety hazards, can only thrive when a commodity is prohibited (be it marijuana in the oughts, or alcohol in the 1920s) and could be turned around through legalization, to not only address product safety, but income inequality and the revitalizion of small business development throughout the state, independent of large-scale corporate interests.
Even the standard “Reefer Madness” reservations related to health, safety and violence based on the findings of Tell Your Children (Free Press, 2019), cited by one Christian conservative speaker, were effectively countered because the committee leadership was aware of Alex Berenson’s book and the speciousness of its arguments.
Unfortunately, inasmuch as it is not known to what degree voters will be aware of these and other points when going to the polls next year, Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the ACLUof New Jersey cautions that even if the referendum likely goes in favor of legalization (60 percent of New Jersey residents see it as an economy builder according to a 2018 Monmoth University poll), what form the final resolution takes will be out of their hands, “undermining the principles of a representative, participatory democracy. Thanks for having us!