In New Jersey, voters overwhelmingly supported public opinion question number one: legalizing recreational marijuana. While the decision to legalize the substance was put into the hands of voters, the nuances of the legislation regarding cannabis are ultimately in the hands of state legislators.
Contrary to the belief of New Jersey voters, the tax revenue of recreational marijuana, which is set to begin sales in 2021, will not be going to causes such as rehabilitation, education, and drug treatments. New Jersey legislators have created bill 21, The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, in response to the election results. The bill states that cannabis revenue will go to “ training costs associated with the attendance and participation of a police officer in a Drug Recognition Expert program”, i.e., police funding.
While the decriminalization of marijuana is a huge win for those paying high prices at medical dispensaries, the taxes and “fees” that have been vaguely identified by policymakers leave many people with questions. How much will consumers truly be taxed? One can only wait for dispensaries to open their doors to find out.
This issue is not exclusive to New Jersey. Five states across the country voted on marijuana this past election, and none of them outline regulations or tax information on the ballots. This leaves voters confident about their vote while still left hanging by policymakers on what will actually happen. Yes, marijuana will be legal recreationally, but how much will it cost, and how much will one be able to buy in one trip? Will those incarcerated with marijuana charges be released, and will their records be wiped? One can not tell that from a two-paragraph blurb on the back of a ballot.
As New Jersey moves forward with bill 21 and the legalization of marijuana, voters seem to be optimistic about it. As a New Jerseyian myself, I am excited to see what kind of fundamental changes our government will have about the handling and treatment of marijuana and other drugs.
Sources: NJ Bill 21