Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Many Questions Remain about the State's New Marijuana Industry

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Many Questions Remain about the State's New Marijuana Industry

Article excerpt

New Jersey's economic recovery from the Great Recession has been among the slowest in the nation. We lag behind neighboring New York and Pennsylvania and are comparable to states like West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama. Addressing this will be job number one for Governor Murphy and the new Legislature with limited ability given the tremendous competition globally to lure companies via new infrastructure and massive tax incentives which New Jersey struggles to afford.Despite this, New Jersey is poised to be on the forefront of developing a new and lucrative industry with an opportunity to save money, improve the quality of life for New Jersey residents and create thousands of new jobs in retail, manufacturing, agriculture, and pharmaceutical research as well as millions in new tax revenue by taxing and regulating marijuana.Along with the potential upside in revenue and jobs, there are some valid concerns and questions that remain including: How do we ensure that this will be done safely? What will we do to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors? How do we prevent individuals from driving under the influence? And, how do we ensure that we build a thriving industry inclusive of all New Jersey residents? And, how will Attorney General Sessions recent announcement impact efforts throughout the nation as well as here in New Jersey?

Thankfully, New Jersey will not be the first nor the last state in the United States to tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over. Fortunately, we have been able to learn valuable lessons from states like Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts and Nevada.

For example, in states that have legalized marijuana, use among minors has actually declined because it is more difficult to obtain. Although studies show that mixing marijuana and driving can double the risk of an accident, it is important to put that into context. Driving while using a cellphone quadruples the risk of an accident and we have addressed that with new laws banning that activity.

And, while we await the implementation of new technologies to more accurately detect drug impaired drivers, other jurisdictions are employing proactive enforcement, blood tests, increased training of police officers to recognize impaired drivers and vigorous public education paid for by the industry to prevent impaired driving.

As we continue to learn from the experiences of other states, we have an opportunity to craft legislation to address some of the inadequacies that presently exist including those rooted in racial and social justice. If this new effort is going to be a success, it must be inclusive to address the current racial disparities that have existed during the time of prohibition as well as those that continue to persist given the lack of diversity in the new industry that has formed. …

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