Point Pleasant Beach Mayor: Why Lawmakers Should Oppose Marijuana

Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid appeared before the legislative committees that voted to support marijuana legalization on Monday.

Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid appeared at the state Legislature committee hearings on Monday to oppose legislation that would legalize marijuana. And he has a lot to say about it.

Even though lawmakers voted to advance the legislation, Reid provided a piece for publication in The Asbury Park Press and Patch detailing his opposition to legalizing marijuana and urging legislators to vote no. Here is his piece:

The New Jersey Legislature today will hear a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, a bill that has so far proven elusive to Gov. Phil Murphy, who touted he would pass it within his first 100 days in office, and his pro-legalization accomplices in the legislature.

Pot industry supporters purport that legalization will be the much sought-after solution to our budgetary woes in New Jersey. But they haven’t done their homework. Just this week, a study was released showing that for every dollar marijuana taxes generate in Colorado, $4.50 must be spent to mitigate the consequences of legalization.

Marijuana tax revenues account for less than 1 percent of the budget in Colorado, the poster child for legalization at the state level. On top of this, even five years following legalization, public schools in the state continue to be woefully underfunded.

Our budget issues will not be cured by legalizing marijuana. To believe otherwise is to ignore reality. There are some things we can be guaranteed to see with legalization, however.

In states that have legalized the drug, black market sales and grow operations flourish. Criminals, gangs and even foreign cartels have used the legal status of marijuana in Colorado, California and other states as an umbrella to run illicit operations. Law enforcement in these states are being forced to expend already precious time and resources to combat these grows that end up being shipped out across the country. Moreover, black market sales in legal states persist due to the higher cost of the legal product. To combat this, Colorado has lowered taxes on the substance, which in return has led to reduced revenues for the state.

Is this what our legislators want in New Jersey? Are they willing to turn the Garden State into a garden for gangs and cartels?

In Washington state, marijuana legalization has led to more kids being exposed to marijuana. According to the Washington State Poison Control Center, there were close to 400 calls to the poison control center related to accidental marijuana exposure in 2017. One third of these were for marijuana exposure in children up to 5 years old. Additionally, the normalization of marijuana is leading more young people to think the drug is perfectly safe to use.

According to the largest drug use survey in the country, more 12th graders then ever have admitted they would use marijuana if it were legal. This flies in the face of legalization pushers who claim that fewer young people will use the drug if it is legalized. The potential for increase in youth use of marijuana is extremely concerning given the fact that the younger a person uses the drug, the more likely they are to develop Cannabis Use Disorder, suffer from mental illness such as schizophrenia, suffer a permanent loss of IQ points and issues with memory, and see increased odds of future abuse of harder substances.

Last, but not least, we also cannot forget that marijuana impairment can be deadly. In Colorado, the number of drivers intoxicated with marijuana and involved in fatal traffic crashes increased almost 90 percent from 2013 to 2015. In Washington, data suggests that fatal car crashes where marijuana was involved have more than doubled since legalization.

Further, driving under the influence of drugs (DUIDs) have risen in the state, with more than 76 percent of statewide DUIDs involving marijuana. AAA has found that drugged driving has already become increasingly deadly in our state over the past decade. In 2016, 39 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs, with 19 percent testing positive for marijuana. I shudder to imagine what will happen if our lawmakers choose to legalize this substance.

Legalization is not a forgone conclusion. I call upon New Jersey legislators to carefully consider the implications for the future of our state when they meet Monday. The decision they make will have lasting consequences that New Jerseyans will have to deal with for generations to come.

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