Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Marijuana Smoke, Mirrors, Revenue

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Marijuana Smoke, Mirrors, Revenue

Article excerpt

In early December, we called on Gov.-elect Phil Murphy to go slowly in legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey once he is sworn in as governor. He has promised to legalize it within his first 100 days. The Legislature appears onboard with that promise. We again say: Hold the train.

We continue to have concerns that law enforcement officers do not have adequate training in how to determine whether a motorist may be driving impaired because of marijuana.

Traditional breath tests will not work, and even blood tests can fail to determine when someone smoked marijuana.

In states where recreational marijuana is legal, individuals often light up in their cars after purchasing it. There are many factors that contribute to motor vehicle accidents – marijuana would just be another one – but the lack of reliable, widespread tests is of great concern.

Murphy, as a candidate, said legalizing marijuana was about social justice first and enhanced state revenue second. We were not convinced.

There is no question that people of color are more often arrested for smoking pot. Legalizing marijuana would change that. But the driving factor in New Jersey is money. Lots of money. As James Nash reports for The Record and, the state could take in as much as $1 billion in new revenue, the equivalent of more than a half-cent increase in the sales tax.

That estimate comes from Brach Eichler, a Roseland law firm with two lawyers on Murphy's health care transition committee. That kind of revenue could offset possible tax increases, something Trenton will be looking to do as the impact of the recently enacted federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is felt in the Garden State.

Yet there are concerns about how high the tax should be.

In Colorado, the sales and excise tax was 27.9 percent initially and was raised to 32.9 percent last year. …

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