Pubdate: Wed, 25 May 2016
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2016 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Jan Hefler


Advocates Say Recreational Use Would Pay Off.

New Jersey would gain at least $300 million a year in taxes if it 
followed the lead of four other states and legalized marijuana for 
recreational use, according to a report released Tuesday by New 
Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform.

The revenue projection is based on imposing an eventual 25 percent 
sales tax on consumers, who would have to be at least 21 years old.

The organizations represent a coalition of advocacy groups working 
for legalization in New Jersey. They analyzed available data on the 
number of people who purchase the drug illegally in New Jersey, and 
examined the experiences of states that recently approved legalization.

"The lessons from around the country are loud and clear: Marijuana 
legalization makes fiscal sense and it makes practical sense," said 
Policy Perspective policy analyst Brandon McKoy, who coauthored the 
report with Ari Rosmarin, public policy director of the American 
Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

The coalition said legalization also would stimulate business, create 
jobs, and eliminate the cost of enforcing marijuana-possession laws 
that it says are unfair and unnecessary. More than 24,000 individuals 
are arrested in New Jersey for marijuana possession each year, with 
African Americans being penalized three times as often as Caucasians 
despite similar usage rates, the group said.

The tax proposed in the report would start at 5 percent the first 
year, then rise to 15 percent the next year and finally be set at 25 
percent, which is comparable to Colorado's 27.9 percent tax. The 
report projects about 343,100 New Jersey residents and about 100,000 
Pennsylvania and New York residents would purchase marijuana at a 
legal marketplace in New Jersey.

Besides Colorado, the other states that allow recreational marijuana 
are Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The District of Columbia also has 
legalized it, but only for personal use, not for sale.

Two years ago, State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D., Union) introduced the 
state's first bill to legalize marijuana. But it was not brought to 
the floor for a vote and expired in December. An identical bill in 
the Assembly was introduced this year.

Scutari said Tuesday that he plans to visit Colorado next month to 
meet with officials and industry representatives to discuss their 
program, and will introduce a new bill in the Senate this summer.

Scutari said he would like to expedite its launch. "We would like to 
be the first on the East Coast. That's why we would like to get out 
in front of it. ... We need the money," he said.

Gov. Christie has repeatedly said he would veto any legalization 
bill. He has said that he believes marijuana is a gateway drug that 
could put children and others at risk. His representative did not 
respond to an email Tuesday asking for comment on the report.

Coalition members say they will continue to lobby for passage, since 
Christie's term will end after next year. They cite a 2015 
Rutgers-Eagleton poll that found 58 percent of New Jerseyans support 

New Jersey allows medical marijuana to be sold only to patients with 
certain ailments, and they must obtain physician approval.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom