Pubdate: Sun, 13 Apr 2014
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Section:  2014 Asbury Park Press
Author: Neill Franklin
Note: Neill Franklin, a retired police officer, is executive director 
of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a Silver Springs, Md.-based 
group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.
Note: OPED 1 of 3


[Asbury Park Press Editor] A bill to legalize marijuana in New Jersey 
has been introduced by Democratic lawmakers in both the Senate and 
the Assembly, even though Gov. Chris Christie has indicated he would 
veto it. The sponsors argue that taxing marijuana would help raise 
badly needed revenue. Christie says legalization would "send the 
wrong message" at a time when the state is faced with a heroin 
epidemic and widespread abuses of prescription drugs.A Monmouth 
University/Asbury Park Press Poll released last week showed a nearly 
even split among those who favored and those who opposed legalization 
of marijuana. Below are essays presenting the cases for and against 


Yes, New Jersey should legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. This is 
a smart, responsible way to reduce crime, protect our kids and raise 
revenue for the state.

In 2009, New Jersey law enforcement made more than 26,000 arrests for 
marijuana, disproportionately of people of color, each one of which 
cost taxpayers somewhere around $1,500 in police and court costs and 
several hours in law enforcement time, diverting those resources from 
violent crime. For every hour that police waste prosecuting someone 
for marijuana, that's an hour not spent going after real criminals. 
Accordingly, as the war on drugs has expanded, the rate at which 
we've solved violent crimes has plummeted.

Instead, those criminals benefit more than anyone from the 
prohibition of marijuana because its illegal status reduces 
competition from legitimate businesses and ensures profits no legal 
commodity can command. With those profits, crime syndicates buy guns, 
run human trafficking rings and fund every other criminal activity. 
Legalizing marijuana would do infinitely more harm to these criminal 
organizations' bottom lines than 40 years of prohibition and billions 
of dollars wasted on the war on drugs ever has, while reducing the 
harms of use at the same time.

That's because most of the harms associated with marijuana use are 
actually a result of prohibition itself. Drug dealers don't ask for 
ID and they don't provide any assurances that what they're selling is 
pure or how powerful it is. That endangers our kids, who report that 
marijuana is already easier to buy than beer and, because it's 
unregulated, there is nothing to prevent it from being laced with 
more dangerous drugs and contaminated by substances such as toxic 
molds, fungi and pesticides.

Were we instead to legalize marijuana, we could ensure its safety and 
would automatically separate the markets for marijuana and for other 
drugs so people who choose to use marijuana would be less likely to 
move on to other substances. In countries that have decriminalized 
drugs, we've seen drug use go down among minors, and preliminary 
figures for Colorado and Washington, the two states that have 
legalized marijuana thus far, show that traffic fatalities have 
decreased in the first year of legalization.

Additionally, as we have seen in Colorado, tax revenues from 
regulated sales can be a tremendous financial boon to the community. 
The latest projections from the nonpartisan Colorado Legislative 
Council suggest upward of $65 million in tax revenue a year, the 
first $40 million of which will go to schools. What could New Jersey 
schools do with that kind of money?

Forty years of drug war have taught us that no matter how much money 
we spend, no matter how many people we arrest, marijuana use is not a 
problem that can be addressed through law enforcement. It's time we 
let go of a model proven not to work and try something we know can. 
It's time we legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New Jersey.

Neill Franklin, a retired police officer, is executive director of 
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a Silver Springs, Md.-based 
group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.
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