Trenton’s Biggest Buzzkill

The author made ten predictions. So far he's 0-for-1.

I don’t drink, gamble or smoke cigarettes. But I do enjoy marijuana. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

TRENTON –You’re hard-pressed to find a more strident supporter of the (trillion dollar) War on Drugs than Assemblywoman Mary
Pat Angelini. Never mind that the current policy is largely a costly failure, when it comes to sensible drug reform, the Assemblywoman’s answer is always the same: Just Say No!  When I say sensible drug reform, this means medical marijuana for people with cancer. Or needle exchange programs that curb HIV and hepatitis transmission rates (and the Charity Care costs to taxpayers to treat those infections.) Thankfully both bills became law with bipartisan support despite Angelini’s Chicken Little-isms about sending the wrong message to our kids.

When a coalition of drug reformers rolled out a campaign to legalize-tax-and-regulate marijuana for adults in NJ, it was only a matter of time before Trenton’s most ardent prohibitionist chimed in: “The folks that want to legalize (marijuana) appear to be gaining traction,” Angelini said. “It’s a good time to let our voice be heard.”

The Assemblywoman’s right about one thing: we are gaining traction. And the reason drug reform is gaining traction is because we’re finally debating the pros and cons of legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use. The more robust the discussion about drug reform is, the faster we’ll end marijuana prohibition. Why? Because the arguments made by Angelini and her ilk sound increasingly regressive to a  growing majority of New Jersey residents. Honestly, y’all, in light of alcohol and prescription bill abuse, isn’t that whole ” marijuana is a gateway drug” argument getting tired?

There were 21,000 marijuana arrests last year in New Jersey. Taxpayers spend $127,000,000 arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating marijuana users annually. And that’s only part of what’s troubling about the reflexively coercive approach America takes towards drug policy. Angelini’s strategy to perpetrate the failed status quo? “It starts a dialogue,” she said, “and we need to do a better job educating people.”

Presumably she’ll be educating people on the hidden, virtuous side of the War of Drugs. Which won’t be an easy sell, even to her own GOP.

To Angelini supporters claiming she’s standing on principal to keep people off drugs, I have one word: PUH-LEEEZE! Especially since Angelini has a professional and financial stake in the Prohibition Industrial Complex. Besides, anyone who accepts thousands of campaign dollars from the New Jersey Liquor Alliance (each and every election cycle) has no business trying to enforce prohibition of any kind.

Inevitable

Despite overwhelming support for medical marijuana in New Jersey, full marijuana legalization still only wins by a percentage point in Monmouth University’s most recent poll from last spring. With support or opposition so strongly correlated to age, marijuana polls have a shorter shelf-life than most surveys. Older people are less supportive of legalization so the natural trend bends towards legalization on demographic trends alone. Here’s hoping the current discussion prompts another state-wide poll on the topic soon.

The day before Assemblywoman Angelini vowed to keep pot out of New Jersey, it became legal in Alaska. The day after her pronouncement, Washington DC were taking legal bong hits. The inexorable march of marijuana liberty will wind through the Garden State eventually.

And in the meantime New Jersey will flush a few hundred million bucks down the toilet to perpetuate the failed  policy of prohibition.
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Jay Lassiter is a New Jersey civil liberties iconoclast fighting to get the government out of your bong. And your womb. And your love life. He’s on Twitter @Jay_Lass.

Trenton’s Biggest Buzzkill